Deadly Accommodation Crisis for Glasgow’s Hotel Asylum Seekers

30 June 2020

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In September 2019, the Home Office awarded Mears Group a 10 year asylum contract worth £1B to provide housing for vulnerable asylum seekers in Scotland and England.

In March/April 2020 the Mears Group breached the Scottish Government’s Lockdown and forcibly moved 370 vulnerable asylum seekers at initial accommodation stage from settled, available homes into hotels, bundled into vans 4 or 5 at a time, with less than half an hours notice, at a time when non essential travel – and evictions – were forbidden and millions were told to “stay home, stay safe”.

Asylum seekers say they were given only a few minutes to pack, and then herded into small vans, 4 or 5 at a time. They were not asked if they had symptoms – they could be asymptomatic and therefore at increased risk to other asylum seekers and the public. Nor was any testing carried out.

Mears then removed those asylum seekers of their meagre allowance of £5.39 a day, money that vulnerable people used for basic food, essential travel, mobile phone top ups, toiletries. Without mobile phone top ups you cant contact lawyers, GPs, family back home. Without mobile phones you can’t build up support networks, contact people, get help. Not being able to cook or clean your own place took away the last piece of control and choice this vulnerable group of people had.

When challenged on why they removed this meagre allowance, the Mears Group claimed that “Handling coins and bank notes is thought to spread Covid-19 and Mears believe that by switching to a fully catered service this will further reduce the likelihood of asylum-seekers becoming infected in this way.”

The rest of the country was not advised in this way, why were asylum seekers stripped off their money?

People complained about the inability to socially distance in a hotel , esp lifts and dining areas. They are worried about windows not opening in their hotel rooms and having to breathe contaminated air, not having access to drinking water, having to drink water from toilets, and feeling “imprisoned” to one room.

One woman told us she had no money to buy sanitary protection, her bedsheets become bloodstained, and she felt too ashamed to leave them outside her hotel room as requested due to the shame of it plus being the only woman on that floor. She also reported feeling unsafe being left on a floor where there were mainly men.

We have consistently expressed concern about the wisdom of placing vulnerable people into hotels.

Less than two months ago, 30 year old Adnan died alone in his room at the McLays Guest House. We have it documented that he had expressed suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide after being forcibly moved from his home at 30 St Andrews Square alongside 370 others into hotels all over Glasgow.

Five days before he died, the Home Office asked for a statement about his suicidal intentions as they were informed he had attempted suicide. A statement was provided by his lawyer. But neither the Home Office or Mears took any action.

Then last Friday, in the Park Inn Hotel, six people were knifed by a mentally ill Sudanese asylum seeker, having been placed there by Mears alongside 100 other vulnerable people, including trafficked women, unaccompanied asylum seeker children and people with mental health trauma. Two unaccompanied asylum seeker young people were among the injured. PC David Whyte was critically injured after answering an emergency call. The attacker was shot dead by police. West George street remains cordoned off for forensics.

Mears claimed that vulnerability assessments were carried out before moving people out of their homes and into hotels to assess people’s vulnerabilities and needs, then backtracked to a journalist. Six Scottish MPs refused to meet them because of “trust issues”.

Then Chris Philip, a Home Office Minister insisted in the House of Commons yesterday (29/6/20) that risk assessment was carried out when asked by Alison Thewliss MP and Chris Stevens MP.

*If it is true that these vulnerability assessments were carried out then how is it that in the space of 7 weeks, two people are dead and six people are seriously injured including one brave police officer who went into protect others?

*How is it that women are telling us about their fears of being left on hotel floors where there are mainly men accommodated and they do not feel safe?

*Where are the copies of the vulnerability assessments?

*Where is the documentation – 370 copies should be filed somewhere? If Mears had done a vulnerability assessment before moving people then people would have known they were about to move. Yet everyone we have spoken to said that they were moved out with only an hour or half hours notice and told to pack their stuff – they never knew.

The common denominator in these incidents? Hotels, not homes. And the dangerous role played by the Home Office and the Mears Group.

Mears claim there have been no cases of Covid-19 in any of the hotels it is using. How do they know? No one has been tested to check this claim.

The mentally ill man who stabbed six people last week was said to have been kept in isolation for 20 days in a room with a brick wall for a view. Yet Mears has publicly claimed that no one in the hotels has Covid 19 symptoms and told the Home Affairs Committee this too.

Mears wrote to assure politicians that its service users “were given notice and helped to move using transport with appropriate social distancing arrangements”. Yet, service users have consistently said that the first time they became aware that they were to be moved was when 2-3 Mears staff came to their flats; told them they were moving and advised that they had half an hour to pack up.

The reliability of Mears Group’s response to this deadly accommodation crisis is being increasingly questioned. It has reached the point where Scottish MPs refused to meet last week with John Taylor, CEO of Mears, citing “trust issues”.

Journalists who put questions to Mears are being referred to the Home Office who issue the same cut and pasted responses. Despite taking part in multiple press interviews on radio and TV, Mears have failed to put up someone to answer the public concerns we and others have raised.

We have identified at least 60 people who are vulnerable and in need of crisis grants. This week, we will distribute crisis grants from our Emergency Relief Fund to those people, money raised from donations from members of the public, to provide the money that Mears took away.

At the press conference on Monday 29 June, a young man Andrew who stayed at the Park Inn hotel, spoke up about the oppressive conditions at the Park Inn hotel, including having to drink tap water from the toilets, windows not opening to let in fresh air, remaining confined to the hotel room, having no money for basics. Andrew, pictured below, is a service user of our charity. We want to make ensure that he is not victimised or his case jeopardised for whistleblowing.

We are deeply concerned for the wellbeing and safety of the asylum seekers. Neither Mears nor the Home Office are making suitable vulnerability checks. This is why we argue that people should be placed in residential homes, not in hotels with hundreds of other strangers, many suffering with long lasting mental health problems and trauma.

Robina Qureshi

This week, and then monthly thereafter, we are arranging small crisis grants as people have no money, no right to work and are feeling the mental pressure of a strange kind of incarceration. Anyone wishing to donate to our Emergency Relief Fund – grants are assessed continuously and go straight to asylum seekers who are in need – can do so at this secure CAF link.

For other ways to give, go to:

See our twitter, Facebook and website about our concerns about the hotel detention of asylum seekers.

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