Glasgow asylum seekers’ lives put at risk as Home Office cuts financial support and Mears puts people into hotels without social distancing in place

22 April 2020

More than 300 men and women seeking asylum in Glasgow have been moved over the past ten days into city centre hotels by the private housing provider Mears, which is subcontracted by the Home Office.

Amongst them, are many vulnerable people, including single women , families, pregnant women, young people, survivors of torture and people with mental health problems.

Asylum seekers being accommodated in hotels have had all their financial support withdrawn in what looks like a cynical cost cutting exercise during a global pandemic. Without money, people cannot top up their phones to keep contact with Lawyers, Caseworkers and GPs, or buy food or hand sanitiser.

More worrying still, there are no social distancing measures in place.

Hotel residents have fixed meal collection times, no access to food or drink outside those hours, other than water, and some say they cannot even open their bedroom windows. 

People have to interact with each other at close proximity in communal areas and shared lifts in order to access basics like food. Many people report they are terrified of infecting others or being infected, but have little choice in the matter. 

Robina Qureshi, Director of Positive Action in Housing, said: 

“It takes just one person to infect hundreds of others, yet Mears is effectively dumping hundreds of asylum seekers into hotels all over Glasgow without any financial support where it is impossible to do social distancing.

“These hotels were emptied because of Covid 19 to keep us all safe but the lives of people seeking asylum doesn’t seem to merit the same respect or human rights. It is now well documented that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are more at risk of death because of Covid 19.

“It is also extremely concerning that at a time when the government is saying noone should go without, the asylum seekers’ meagre cash support of £35 a week has been cut completely. Asylum seekers are being exposed to even greater risk, this money could ultimately help people stay safe, reasonably nourished, and process their paperwork so they can get their status sorted out and begin to lead stable lives. 

“Ramadhan is due to start tomorrow, many Muslim asylum seekers are worried about arrangements for fasting – last night ( a day early) one of the hotels supplied an individual packet of muesli, a banana, a cheese roll and a very small bottle of water to have before the fast starts. This is not the kind of food Muslims would usually eat before the fast and it is certainly inadequate hydration.

“People are meant to get up around 2.30 am to pray and eat. Then they cannot drink or eat until 8.40 pm or later because of the longer days. They need access to nourishing food at dawn and then dusk but the hotel kitchens are closed. Mears says they are offering prayer mats, which shows how clueless they are. People need their basic human rights, accommodation where they can properly self isolate, keep clean and eat nourishing meals at the times they need to due to religious obligation.

“We are demanding that asylum seekers have their financial support reinstated immediately. People need to make calls for emergency reasons to access lawyers so they can get their status resolved and begin to rebuild their lives. They also need to buy essential food items. And we call on Mears to move people out of these hotels and into self contained unshared accommodation, to protect everyone’s public health.”

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