Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland calls for end of hotel accommodation for children
2 November 2023
The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland has called today the end to the use of hotels for children and families in the UK asylum system, stating that this practice is a violation of their human rights.
“Sometimes I feel like I am in prison. I do not know anywhere around me, sometimes I take a walk to ease the tension as there are no other young person in the hotel I can talk to.” - a child living in hotel accommodation
The use of hotels as long-term accommodation has been normalised in the UK asylum system since the Government began using them as a form of institutionalised accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fast forward three years and tens of thousands of people seeking safety are trapped in limbo in these unsuitable accommodations.
Children and mothers are not spared from this. At Positive Action in Housing, we have been working with pregnant women, mothers and children who are facing hostile accommodation conditions. We were glad to have contributed to the report conducted by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland condemning the use of hotels for children and families in the UK asylum system.
Our caseworkers hear first-hand accounts from pregnant women living in hotels without access to appropriate food, without facilities required for sterilising equipment and storing breast milk, and without spaces for children to play. Some have even been prevented from having their partners visit them in their accommodation, whilst others have not been allowed visits from external support organisations.
We have seen how hotel accommodation has affected the mental and physical health of both mothers and children. Below are some examples of experiences of mothers who were forced into cramped and restricted conditions whilst trying to raise their children.
“There was a mum with a 15-year-old son, and a 6-year-old son all in one room. The mum had to complain (to staff) because when she stood up from the bed her 15-year-old saw that the mum had begun menstruating because she was bleeding on the bed and asked “what is that?”. This made her very ashamed and embarrassed.”
“Being in the hotel alone with no support, it reminds you of the people you don’t have who could support you – you feel like you’ve been dumped. It’s really stressful and gives you bad mental health.”
“It was the worst time of my life. I felt worthless. It was like a prison. The food was pretty bad, and some rooms flooded. When we told the staff the food was no good, he told us ‘If you don’t like it you can go back to your own country.’”
90% of families surveyed by Refugee Action reported being placed in a hotel that was unsuitable for children. As the Children and Young People’s Commissioner has now stated ‘no child should have to live in a hotel, or hotel-type accommodation - they are totally unsuitable and violate a wide range of children’s rights’.
Adam Paterson (Advocacy and Campaigns Officer) and Iona Taylor (Advocacy and Campaigns Lead)