Open letter from Glasgow asylum seekers calls for Covid 19 testing

3 October 2020

Asylum seekers locked down with other confirmed cases of Covid 19 at Mclays Guest House in Glasgow have written an open letter (see below) to the Home Secretary pleading to be tested immediately and then relocated out of the hotel into private unshared accommodation if their tests prove negative.

Positive Action in Housing, the non profit refugee and migrant homelessness and human rights charity based in Glasgow is assisting several of the asylum seekers to have their voices heard.

One of the people inside said:

“We feel like prisoners locked in here with no voice or rights. Why were people put into a hotel with no social distancing during a pandemic? I feel that our lives don’t have the same value or protection. If the government allowed us to work we could pay for our own tests. If we were allowed to work while we wait for our cases we could rent a flat instead of staying in a hotel where there is no social distancing and people are just scared. All we ask now is to be tested and relocated to unshared clean accommodation before we all catch this virus.”

Robina Qureshi, Director, said:

“We have been assisting many of the asylum seekers at Mclays since Lockdown began by providing food, crisis support and practical assistance once Mears moves them.

“The asylum seekers that contributed to this letter want their voices to be heard. They feel strongly that they should be tested immediately and then relocated to unshared accommodation, if their tests are negative, before everyone catches the virus.

“They are having to remain inside quite small rooms 24/7 and do not receive clear information of when they can leave. Some people were allowed into the garden yesterday but others were told they can’t even leave their rooms. We should not forget that many people have mental health problems.

“several people we spoke to said that if they are forced to remain in the guest house alongside confirmed cases then they will catch Covid eventually, many have spoken about having depression and poor health which weakens the immune system.

“People are feeling left in the dark with no clear information about their rights, and afraid to give their names for fear of repercussions with their asylum cases. One person spoke of the fear of getting sick and never seeing family again.

“Another issue that has been raised is the manner in which people have been moved. See the series of articles going back to March 2020 on our blog on our website

“People are asking to be moved into unshared flats after being tested. Many people have been moved from the hotels into dirty shared flats and they do not know if the person they are supposed to share with has been tested for Covid 19.

“These moves are being handled in a cheap and sloppy manner with no regard for public health and safety. Mears does not test anyone for Covid 19 before forcing them to share often dirty flats with people they do not know. They are basically acting as if there is no Lockdown or Pandemic. Yet they are in charge of 5000 refugees and asylum seekers in this city.

“The situation is a disgrace. There have been two walkouts by Scottish MPs because of trust issues over this matter. Our charity has seen denial after denial, and complete distancing by Mears from what is going on with the tragedies that have taken place in the last five months, as well as the day to day cases people do not know about.

“Mears and the Home Office have created a crisis for asylum seekers by dumping people in hotels since lockdown began and shifting people between dirty, shared flats without testing them or the people they are meant to share with, now, they are allegedly refusing to test people affected directly by Covid 19, and creating a worse crisis for all the people of Glasgow.

“There is a crisis going on and no one really knows the full scale of the suffering. Why are people were being put into dirty accommodation and forced to share untested with people they don’t know during a pandemic? 

“This is a public health issue. People across Glasgow should be concerned. Ministers promised to make people in care homes a priority for coronavirus tests – the same should apply to asylum seekers dumped in these hotels.

“Health is a devolved matter and we ask that the Scottish Health Minister makes these tests happen for the asylum seekers inside Mclays. The alternative is that everyone in there catches the virus and it’s a cost just not worth paying. People’s lives matter, there is no trust in Mears, and we need action from the Scottish Government to force these tests through and let people leave if their tests are clear.

“We continue to call for a public inquiry into what is going on with the Hotel moves, the transfers and the tragedies since the Lockdown began.”


Dear Home Secretary,

We are amongst the 44 men and women asylum seekers being kept in lockdown in the Mclays Guest House in Glasgow, run by Mears (the outsourcing company subcontracted to the Home Office to accommodate asylum seekers).

We left our countries out of fear. Many of us had good jobs and professions. We love our families but it was not safe for us to stay. 

We have been here for months. Our situation without money or home was already bad. Now it is very bad. One person has tested positive and four have symptoms. All of us are being kept in the same hotel. We feel bad for them and for us.

Staff have told us not to leave our rooms. We asked when we can leave but they say they don’t know. We asked to be tested for Covid 19 and they said we can’t be tested, and we can’t leave the hotel.

Some of us are getting counselling for mental health problems. We are told to exercise and walk to help our mental health. But we cannot get out for fresh air. Yesterday some people were allowed to go in the back garden. Some were not. It is unfair.

We don’t know if the staff coming to our rooms to leave food and clean up are also visiting the ones who have tested positive or have Covid symptoms. We do not feel safe living in the same premises, even in separate rooms. We are afraid to breathe.

The longer we are forced to stay here, the more chance the virus will spread and we will catch it. As more people catch the virus the longer we will be kept imprisoned in our rooms. This will have a serious mental impact and jeopardise our safety. 

We are not feeling okay about the situation. What’s happening in this hotel isn’t right, it is a disgrace and painful to endure. We don’t want this crisis to get worse. 

We asked for a test so we can know if we have the virus but Mears refuse to give us one. The government is promoting Covid 19 testing. By refusing us tests, our lives are being put at risk. 

We ask you as Home Secretary to arrange for the asylum seekers at Mclays Guest House to be tested for Covid 19, so we know if we have the virus, and then relocated to private unshared flats before it’s too late.

Please help us. We are afraid of using our own names. 


The Asylum Seekers (Human beings) at McLays Hotel

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