Letter to the First Minister About Glasgow’s “hotel asylum seekers”

13 May 2020

Letter to the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon asking the Scottish Government to investigate why the Mears Group, in Glasgow, the largest and most densely populated city in Scotland, forcibly moved up to 400 vulnerable men, women and children from their homes into hotels.

This happened in April, during the Lockdown, when non-essential travel was 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.

New research shared by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention suggests air conditioners can be a transporter of viruses. The problem is even greater in hotels where windows can’t open and poor, contaminated indoor air can’t escape, and if filters are not changed regularly. We have heard complaints from asylum seekers that they can’t open the windows of their hotel rooms to get fresh air.

Levels of depression are increasing. Many people are survivors of trauma and torture and suffering mental health problems because of the length of time they have been in the asylum system. People are growing increasingly desperate.

We find these testimonies disturbing, hotels are supposed to be closed during the Lockdown.

Hotel employees may also be subjected to an increased viral load in the workplace and then must go back out into the general community for a variety of essential purposes.

There are now several hotspots of potential Covid-19 outbreaks all over the city. Yet this was no homelessness situation where people had to be moved out of their homes. Several accommodation providers claim that they were told by agents for Mears Group at the start of April that their flats were no longer needed because people were being moved into hotels, and they would not be paid for the remainder of their contracts.

Immigration may not be a devolved matter, but the consequences of this particularly repellent reserved policy decision (if that’s indeed what it is, rather than simple greed by a Home Office approved contractor) extend to potentially harming the native, indigenous, host Scottish population.

The public deserve to know why Mears Group forcibly moved 400 vulnerable people at very short notice during a Lockdown out of their homes and into crowded hotels (where social distancing is impossible and there is increased risk of catching the Coronavirus in crowded dining rooms and lifts).

Robina Qureshi

May 13 2020

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