This post follows on from the initial post which became very long, but can be found here: https://qarn.org.uk/concerns-about-the-use-of-army-barracks-etc/. Here we update the post with reports of atrocities around the army camp accommodation and hotels, and other Home Office plans to accommodate people in new sites. These are the consequences of the hostile system that leaves people languishing without a decision for long periods of time.
23 October 2023: Guardian: Conditions at Manston centre for asylum seekers ‘unacceptable’
Watchdog’s report also has ‘serious concerns’ about conditions at Western Jet Foil and Kent Intake Unit
Conditions at a processing centre for asylum seekers who arrive on the Kent coast in small boats have been called unacceptable in a report from a watchdog that monitors the centre.
Representatives from the Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB) made a total of 85 visits in 2022 to three Home Office processing centres for small boat arrivals – Manston, Western Jet Foil and Kent Intake Unit – for its 2022 annual report into short-term holding facilities on the Kent coast. All three centres hit the headlines last year due to a variety of scandals and serious incidents.
The IMB report found that the facilities struggled to cope with an increasing number of arrivals and identified “serious concerns about the conditions in which people were being held, particularly at Manston”.
The report adds: “At Manston detained individuals were accommodated in marquees which we would describe as at best basic, at worst unsanitary and unacceptable.”
19 October: Guardian: Chaotic scenes as first asylum seekers return to Bibby Stockholm barge
Just Stop Oil protesters block causeway and briefly halt coach carrying men to vessel in Portland port
There were chaotic scenes as the UK government forced asylum seekers to return to the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset, more than two months after it was evacuated when legionella bacteria was discovered in the water supply.
Just Stop Oil protesters managed to stop the coach carrying the men to the vessel in Portland port by blocking the causeway to the island and claimed that the vehicle put their lives in danger by pushing through them.
About 50 other local people and campaigners gathered at the gates of the port to object to the men being returned to the facility but also to welcome them back into their community.
2 October 2023: Guardian: Come with me to a Home Office centre for disabled asylum seekers. See Britain’s hidden shame
Leaving disabled asylum seekers to rot in an old care home is not an aberration – it is the system working exactly as intended
Under the grey sky of an Essex seaside town sits a broken wheelchair, its blue front wheel shattered. Inside an office, a frame for a hoist languishes. A sign on a lift reads “Out of order”. Scraps of cardboard have been stuck on to the glass of broken windows and doors, blocking outside light from entering darkened rooms.
Welcome to a Home Office centre for disabled asylum seekers – otherwise known as Britain’s hidden shame.
Shipped in from Manston – the overcrowded Kent asylum centre – last November, the 55 residents housed in this processing centre run by a private company have severe or life-limiting disabilities. Some have lost limbs, others are deaf or blind. Half a dozen are paraplegic. Some have been disabled since birth; others were maimed in the war zones they’re now fleeing from.
Ask an official, and they’ll likely describe the site as a “former care home”, but you’d be hard-pressed to find much care. There are no grab rails in the property. No changing beds for incontinent residents or commodes for those who can’t make it to the toilet. Bathrooms don’t have shower chairs to enable people to wash.
The centre has security guards but no trained care workers. Instead, disabled residents are left to fend for themselves. One young man from Pakistan with cerebral palsy is paralysed and unable to speak, but has not been given a carer. His mum is with him in the centre and does all she can, but she needs knee surgery herself. Buckled by the strain, she’s started to use her son’s walking frame. “His mum sobs and cries all the time,” says Maria Wilby, from the local charity, Refugee, Asylum Seeker and Migrant Action. “A few weeks back, she begged for help on the floor.”
12 September 2023: Guardian: We were held on Suella Braverman’s Bibby Stockholm barge – and we’re terrified of going back there
We asylum seekers feel part of a cruel game being played by ministers with little regard for us or public opinion
Much has been written over weeks and months about the Bibby Stockholm, the barge upon which the Home Office seeks to accommodate more than 500 asylum seekers. We are among them. We were on the Bibby Stockholm. Let us tell you what that was like, and our view of the asylum system.
The message we’d like people to know is this: we are tired of being treated like this. We cannot cope with these conditions. We are all victims of a game that is played by politicians.
There were 39 of us on the barge, from different countries. We are people escaping torture, persecution and imprisonment. We were forced to leave our homes, our jobs and our families, and we hoped to find safety in the UK.
When we were told we would be moved to the Bibby Stockholm, we became worried, not least because we were warned it was dangerous. However, we are law-abiding and wanted to respect the decision of the authorities. On board, although none of us are criminals, we were constrained by the tight security, and we felt far removed from normal life.
We were very frightened when some of us began to fall ill. One person even tried to take his own life. We had no information and felt we were the last people to learn what was happening. When an epidemic was discovered, we were removed from the barge, and we’re now in an old and abandoned hotel. We’re still under a lot of strain, not knowing what will happen to us next. We feel very low.
1 September 2023: Guardian: Home Office defies high court by placing 100 asylum-seeker children in hotels
Unlawful practice still used in Kent was condemned after more than 200 went missing from accommodation
The UK Home Office has placed more than 100 lone asylum-seeker children in hotels in recent weeks, despite the practice having been found unlawful by the high court.
The government’s continued use of hotels has been condemned by human rights and refugee organisations since more than 200 children have gone missing, including dozens who vanished from one hotel in Brighton.
One of the reasons why children continue to be placed in hotels, some for a number of weeks, is that Kent county council says it cannot cope with the number of children arriving. The council’s geographical location means it has responsibility to take into care lone children who arrive at the Kent coast in small boats. It has warned that they are struggling to meet their legal obligations to UK as well as asylum-seeker children.
Both the Home Office and Kent county council have been found by the high court to have acted unlawfully by failing to look after these children properly.
17 August 2023: Quakers call on government to stop demonizing asylum seekers
The ‘hostile environment’ offered to refugees continues to bear its dreadful fruit. Quakers say the government must recognise that of God in everyone.
14 August 2023: News coming in the demonstrates that the Home Office did not wait for clearance regarding Legionella on the Bibby before boarding the people seeking asylum
There is a question about whether the Council told the Home Office when the results were received on the day they had them – the day the men were taken onto Bibby – in which case the men were knowingly put at risk for three days before they were disembarked, or whether the results were communicated to the Home Office three days late. Either way, the Home Office boarded the men without appropriate health and safety checks. Disgraceful.
StatusNow4All: our campaign: ‘Indefinite Leave To Remain’ for people who are undocumented, destitute, and those in the legal process #HealthAndSafetyForAll
11 August 2023: Guardian: Legionella discovery forces asylum seekers off Bibby Stockholm days after arrival
Bacteria which can cause serious lung infection legionnaires’ disease found in water on Dorset barge
All asylum seekers being housed onboard a controversial barge are being removed because of potentially deadly bacteria in the water system, it has been confirmed.
Home Office sources said legionella had been identified on the Bibby Stockholm, the 222-bedroom hulk hired by the Home Office as part of a £1.6bn immigration deal.
The first asylum seekers boarded on Monday, and by Friday there were 39 onboard the vessel, which is docked in Portland Port, Devon.
People can get lung infections, such as legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever, if they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria. No one has so far been identified as contracting the disease.
10 August 2023: i: Home Office tells asylum seeker with TB they’re moving to Bibby Stockholm, sparking health fears
The asylum seeker’s GP has warned of a lack of checks by the Home Office, which cannot automatically see a patient’s health records before moving them to the barge
The Home Office has told an asylum seeker with tuberculosis they are going to be moved onto the Bibby Stockholm barge, i can reveal.
The doctor treating the migrant is trying to prevent the move and has warned of a “public health catastrophe in the making”.
Dr Dominik Metz, a GP for more than 250 asylum seekers in Oxfordshire, told i that 10 of his patients have received letters from the Home Office saying they would be moved to the barge.
Updated 21 July 2023: Guardian: ‘Cabins slightly larger than a prison cell’: life aboard the UK’s barge for asylum seekers
Home Office tour of asylum seeker Bibby Stockholm barge emphasises no-frills features including TVs that don’t work
Each two-person cabin in the Bibby Stockholm barge, which is set to start accommodating asylum seekers imminently, has a small flat-screen television screwed to the wall opposite the bunk beds. Residents will not, however, be able to watch them because they have not been wired to anything.
The timeline for the arrival of the first group of 50 asylum seekers has slipped from next week to “the coming weeks”, with the Home Office aiming to increase the number of occupants (or “service users”, as barge staff term them) to 500 by the autumn.
Organising tours for journalists on Friday of the 222-cabin barge moored in Portland Port, Dorset, presented government officials with a PR conundrum.
To underline that reliance on expensive hotel accommodation was being reduced, conditions needed to be shown to be less luxurious than hotels but not so austere that the barge could be classified as a floating prison.
Interesting what some news outlets consider to be luxury: Mail: EXCLUSIVE – Welcome to life on the Bibby Stockholm: Migrants staying on barge will get hikes on the Dorset coast, allotments and cricket classes as video shows tour of ‘floatel’
The migrants will mainly sleep two to a room, in single bunkbeds, and each 12ft by 12ft en-suite bedroom has a wardrobe, a desk and a television – although the TV has a British plug but the electrical sockets are all EU ones. And the aerial isn’t connected ‘to encourage socialising’.
If you want to read more: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12323897/Life-migrant-barge-Tour-controversial-Bibby-Stockholm-docked-Dorset-port-reveals-life-like-fully-equipped-gym-TV-games-rooms.html
Updated 17 June 2023: Guardian: Children in England’s asylum hotels suffering from malnutrition
Health professionals say some children dangerously thin, with parents reportedly rummaging through bins to find food
Health professionals have raised concerns about the increasing number of children in asylum seeker hotel accommodation being diagnosed with malnutrition, the Guardian has learned.
Cases of malnutrition among both children and adults have been confirmed in various different areas of England, including hotels in London and in the south-west.
In some areas health professionals have started weighing children at the hotels who have become dangerously thin and in need of frequent monitoring.
Those working with families in hotels reported that some parents have been found rummaging through bins to find food for their children and adults were losing as much as 10-15kg (22-33lbs) of weight.
Rupert Blomfield, manager of Refugee Support Devon, which is providing support to asylum seekers in hotels across the county, said: “Some children are simply not eating. We have had cases of malnutrition confirmed. Some children have been losing weight to quite a dangerous degree.”
One health and social care professional who is also involved with weighing asylum seekers in the Devon area said: “The situation for families is dire and no matter how many times issues are raised with the contractor or the Home Office, nothing changes. The children are losing weight rapidly, going to school and saying they’re starving, eating two portions of lunch. They are saying that they don’t want to return to the hotel which they describe as ‘prison’.
“We’re ignored when complaints are raised and so have resorted to weighing some of the families to evidence the weight loss and push for changes to be made.”
Updated 3 June 2023 RAPAR: @RAPARUK’s statement on government intention to evict Afghan people from hotels
Manchester and Salford. You can read about our history here. Before very long, those Afghan people in the tower blocks began to be joined by Iraqis.
Then, in October 2002, people who were being failed by the asylum system, including Afghan and Iraqi people, began receiving eviction notices from their local authorities – pre-privatisation local councils had responsibility for housing people seeking asylum. The eviction notices told the refugees that they must leave their accommodation and arrange to return to their homelands.
These letters were sent out just months before Blair’s Government joined the USA’s ‘shock and awe’ attack on Baghdad that marked the beginning of that illegal war. In March 2003, as the bombing began, the glossy Guardian Saturday supplement reported on RAPAR’s exposure of the then Labour Government directive to evict Iraqi people and return them to what they knew would become a carpet-bomb site.
It did not stop the evictions of course. Media alone stops nothing. Only organised and collective direct action with unambiguous purpose can stop such abuses and make change.
Alongside their ancestors, the overwhelming number of refugee people living in UK hotels today, whether from Afghanistan, Iraq or anywhere else, have been on the receiving end of what amounts to obscene and racist British foreign policy for centuries, never mind decades. The way forward must be to join forces, unequivocally, with the people in the UK who have status (unrestricted leave to remain) and who are organising resistance to what is an increasingly totalitarian and protofascist rule of law on this degenerating island.
Updated 2 May 2023: Jesuit Refugee Service: Napier Barracks: the inhumane reality
an in-depth report of the experiences of men held in quasi-detention at Napier Barracks
DOWNLOAD THE REPORT
The Jesuit Refugee Service UK (JRS UK)’s report ‘Napier Barracks: the inhumane reality’ shines a light onto the experiences of people placed in the asylum camp at the disused Napier Barracks in Kent.
JRS UK ran an outreach service to Napier for two years from October 2020. What we saw on the ground was deeply troubling: the site was bleak and rundown, the setting was securitised, the accommodation was crowded. This all took a serious toll on mental health. The report draws from the accounts of 17 forcibly displaced people supported by JRS UK held in Napier Barracks between July and November 2022.
- Taken to an unknown place. People were routinely brought to the camp without their prior knowledge, and this caused deep anxiety.
- A daily struggle. Life at the camp was very difficult. The camp was noisy and crowded, and sleeping quarters comprised of large dormitories. Absence of privacy, and connected sleep deprivation, were structuring features of life at Napier. At the same time, Napier felt like a prison to many participants, partly because of its physical setting, and partly because
daily life there is tightly regimented. Many participants were forced to relive trauma at Napier, closely bound up with its physical camp setting, and its military and prison-like features. All of these things together were deeply damaging to people placed at Napier.
- Failing those with vulnerabilities. There were serious failures in screening for vulnerabilities at Napier, and survivors of both trafficking and torture continued to be placed and remain there, in contravention of the government’s own guidelines. Additionally, there are serious inadequacies in welfare support, and individuals face significant barriers to accessing healthcare.
- Lack of legal advice. It was also very difficult, sometimes indeed impossible, to secure legal advice whilst at Napier, and what legal representation was secured was frequently inadequate. This sits in the context of a wider crisis in asylum legal advice, but is made much worse by the fact that hundreds of people seeking asylum have been ghettoised in
a relatively remote location
Read more: https://www.jrsuk.net/napier-report/
Amidst suffering in Napier Barracks, refugees testified to the kindness of the local community
Updated 22 April 2023: Guardian: Shared rooms, rancid food, no clothes: new report lays bare shocking conditions of those seeking refuge in UK
Asylum seekers are enduring conditions worse than prison as they wait in hotels for claims to be processed
Asylum seekers have been forced to live for a year in windowless rooms smaller than prison cells, served food so dire it is blamed for causing diabetes, and have spent days in their underwear because they only have one change of clothes.
These are the shocking conditions laid bare this weekend in a comprehensive report from the charity Migrant Voice, which took testimony from 170 asylum seekers staying in London hotels that are supposed to serve as short-term accommodation.
The charity has chronicled repeated accounts of overcrowding, “filthy rooms”, abusive and obstructive staff and “dangerously erratic” healthcare.
Updated 11 April 2023: RightToRemain: Today, Mersyside Solidarity Knows No Border paid a noisy visit to Bibby Line Group HQ in #Liverpool.
Why? The firm is considering being a partner in the Government’s cruel plan to incarcerate people who are seeking asylum here – on their barge.
Updated 29 March 2023: RAPAR: VERY URGENT UPDATE ON SHAY’S FAMILY ACCOMODATION – 29/03/23
Tomorrow (30/03/23) is the deadline for the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Home Office), Serco and Migrant Help to respond to the lawyers representing the family at the centre of Shay’s Family campaign, exposing SERCO and its human rights violations in the hotel in Stockport. The pre-action protocol letter sent to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Serco and Migrant Help has put down a public law challenge to the suitability of accommodation and makes an urgent request for the family to be allocated dispersal accommodation.
Simultaneously, the family’s current hosts in Stockport cannot continue to offer temporary accommodation beyond tomorrow (30/03/23). Please read the email below sent first thing today to Stockport Social Services. There has been no response yet.
Read more: http://www.rapar.co.uk/seeking-safety.html
Minister sets out plans to use old army bases and possibly ships to save money and dissuade people from coming to UK
Asylum seekers will be housed in the most basic accommodation possible, including disused army bases and possibly ships, to save money and to dissuade people from coming to the UK, the government has said.
In a Commons statement setting out the next stage in the plans to reduce asylum claims in the UK, Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, said the plans would meet legal requirements to ensure that those who arrived were not made “destitute”, but nothing more.
“We must not elevate the wellbeing of illegal migrants above those of the British people,” he told MPs.
In one answer, Jenrick appeared to argue that the government had to remove incentives to arrive by small boats by being as ruthless as people smugglers: “They are some of the most evil, most pernicious people in society. You have to match them – you cannot behave in a way that is weak and naive.”
Urban Rot video’d inside the disused Northolt Prison recently and this is what they found:
Former military bases and cruise ships are among alternatives to hotels to house people seeking asylum in UK
Ministers led by the home secretary, Suella Braverman, are desperate to stop the use of hotels at a cost of £6.2m a day for people seeking asylum in the UK. Conservative MPs are demanding extreme measures – here are some of the alternatives “not being ruled out” by the government.
The immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, confirmed on Wednesday that former RAF sites in Essex and Lincolnshire are earmarked for development – but the government must yet face down legal threats and anger from local Conservatives. James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, has already voiced his opposition to the Essex site, which is in his constituency.
A separate site on private land in Bexhill, East Sussex, will also be used, while Jenrick said Rishi Sunak was “showing leadership” by “bringing forward proposals” to use barracks in Catterick Garrison in his own constituency of Richmond, Yorkshire.
Exclusive: Ministers facing growing anger from Tory backbenchers over use of hotels in their constituencies
The Home Office is planning to use disused cruise ships to house asylum seekers amid growing anger from Conservative backbenchers over the use of hotels in their constituencies.
Ministers are looking at possible vessels including a former cruise ship from Indonesia, which would be moored in south-west England, the Guardian understands.
Updated 25 March 2023: Sky News: Plans to house migrants in military bases or disused ferries to be announced in bid to clear hotels
Ministers have signalled they want to end the use of hotels as asylum seeker accommodation and instead use military bases or disused ferries.
Plans to house newly arriving migrants on military bases or even potentially disused ferries are expected to be announced by the government within weeks in a bid to clear hotels.
Ministers have already signalled that they want to end the use of hotels as asylum seeker accommodation.
Previous suggestions of using holiday camps and student halls are less likely to be brought into action.
It comes as Tory MPs prepare to mount a rebellion against Rishi Sunak’s illegal immigration bill next week.
A number of senior Tories and former ministers have signed an amendment that would carve out any role for the European Court of Human Rights from the UK process for handling illegal migration.
Guardian: ‘You walked in and your heart sank’: the shocking inside story of Manston detention centre
Last year, the short-term facility in Kent ballooned into a vast, unsafe camp holding thousands of people, including children. How did our asylum system get so broken – and what does it reveal about Rishi Sunak’s promise to stop the small boats?
In late September last year, a Home Office employee walked into a newly opened section of the Manston short-term holding facility in Kent and realised that conditions there were spiralling out of control: “It had got way beyond what was ethical and humane.”
The site, a collection of marquees in the grounds of a former army barracks near a disused airport, was overcrowded, and staff were improvising increasingly unsuitable makeshift expansions. “There were people who’d been sleeping on a mat on the floor of a marquee for 20 days. We’d run out of space, so we were opening old bits of the site. They’d put some mats on the floor of the gym – a really old building. It looked like it was about to fall down. None of it had been set up with decent hygiene facilities, bedding or anything. You walked in and your heart just sank. I had a feeling of: ‘Oh my God, what have we got into here?’” says the official, who asked not to be identified.
“I saw people lying on opened-up cardboard boxes,” the employee recalls, briefly resting their head in their hands, as they speak for the first time about life inside the camp. The civil servant reported their concern to superiors in London. Some families had been there for nine nights, shut inside tents without access to fresh air: “It was pretty awful to see.”
Updated 20 March 2023: BBC: Private firms profiting from asylum hotels
Private firms are making increased profits as the government pays millions of pounds a day to put up asylum seekers in the UK, the BBC has learned.
BBC News has been told 395 hotels are being used to house asylum seekers, as arrivals to the UK rose last year.
Documents show one booking agency used by the Home Office trebled its pre-tax profits from £2.1m to £6.3m in the 12 months up to February 2022.
The Home Office says the asylum system is under “incredible strain”.
The government has never publicly confirmed the number of hotels involved, but a government source told BBC News it is now using 395 to accommodate more than 51,000 asylum seekers, at a cost of more than £6m a day.
Of those hotels, 363 are in England, 20 in Northern Ireland, 10 in Scotland and two in Wales.
Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-64991234
Updated 7 March 2023: See: Article 39 seeks legal protection for highly vulnerable children housed in Home Office hotels https://qarn.org.uk/article-39-seeks-legal-protection-for-highly-vulnerable-children-housed-in-home-office-hotels/
See: Trade unions unite in solidarity with refugees https://qarn.org.uk/trade-unions-unite-in-solidarity-with-refugees/
2 March 2023: IRR: Attacks on asylum housing: from Ireland to Knowsley
Since our last newsletter in which we reported on the eruption of violence in Knowsley, Merseyside, we have seen the spreading of a relentless campaign targeting hotels accommodating asylum seekers across England, with protests in Rotherham, Skegness, Newquay, Long Eaton and Dunstable in the past weeks.
All this, as well as similar far-right mobilisations against asylum seekers in other European countries, is documented in our regular calendar of racism and resistance. To supplement this, on IRR News this week Sophia Siddiqui investigates what is underpinning the violent targeting of asylum seekers in the UK and in Ireland – which has been in the grip of anti-immigration demonstrations since last year – with far-right groups mobilising to gain footholds in local communities by spreading disinformation on violence against women and girls to fuel a moral panic.
Thankfully, the far-Right, in their noisy and nasty attempts to sow division, have been vastly outnumbered by counter-protesters who have mobilised quickly and decisively. Building on the insights and experiences of migrant solidarity groups, feminists, BME women’s refuges, LGBTQ communities, Travellers organisations and trade union activists, Siddiqui explores the harmful impact on minority communities, but also the intersectional solidarity that is now coming to the fore to confront far-right racism and misogyny.
Now, more than ever, unity at home and solidarity abroad is needed to counter the far Right, which, in creating mayhem, is exploiting the hostile environment towards asylum seekers that is built into the very design of state policy. Already we have seen curfews imposed on asylum seekers preventing them from leaving refugee accommodation – one of the ways in which the far-Right attacks have added a violent dimension to the hostile environment.
Read more from IRR: https://irr.org.uk/article/attacks-on-asylum-housing-from-ireland-to-knowsley/
Updated 19 February 2023: Guardian: Lone children as young as 14 detained at Manston asylum seeker centre
FoI request reveals data for six-month period in 2022, with some children held unlawfully for over 24 hours
Lone children as young as 14 have been detained at the Manston asylum seeker processing centre in Kent, a freedom of information request has revealed.
According to the immigration rules, children should not be detained in short-term holding facilities such as Manston, apart from in exceptional circumstances, and holding them for more than 24 hours is unlawful.
The Home Office revealed for the first time that between April and September 2022 it placed 17 children at Manston who they determined were between 14 and 17 years old. The freedom of information response showed that one child was 14; three were 15; six were 16; and seven were 17.
Updated 18 February 2023: BBC: Asylum hotel disorder: Demonstrations held in Liverpool
Hundreds of people attended a rally in support of refugees following violence outside a Merseyside hotel housing asylum seekers a week ago.
Liverpool mayor Joanne Anderson and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joined the event, saying they wanted to “stand up for refugees”.
Updated 17 February 2023: Justice Gap: Child protection concerns remain as number of asylum seekers in hotels soar
Pressure is increasing on the Government as evidence reveals the unsanitary physical conditions of contingency hotels and various safeguarding failures for asylum-seeking children. The Home Office has failed to end housing asylum seekers in hotels, despite its repeated pledge to end the practice. The Government’s data reflects a soaring number of asylum seekers placed in hotels since the pandemic, from 2,577 people in March 2020 to 37,142 in September 2022.
The Government has been slow to react to concerns over the hotels’ physical conditions and safety. Grassroots organisations, such as the Croydon Refugees and New Communities Forum, have campaigned to expose sites with rodent infestations, dampness, mould and leaks. Extended indefinite stays in these hotels, and the safeguarding failures therein, continue to have detrimental effects on the well-being and safety of asylum-seeking children.
Read more: Huihui Zhu, Justice Gap, https://rb.gy/rz3itj
13 February 2023: Care4Calais: Knowsley hotel update
Yesterday we went back to the hotel to visit the asylum seekers and see if they were okay. The mood was muted. People were naturally disturbed. The most common things we heard were “We just want to be safe” “we haven’t done anything wrong” and “Please, can you help us move to another town?”
The saddest thing I heard was a man from Afganistan who said “I wasn’t safe in my country and I’m not safe here.”
We didn’t have much time but we took what we could to cheer them up. Boxes of fresh fruit, chocolate, lots of cakes, cans of coke and lemonade. Just small things, but they were so happy to see them. It was the gesture that mattered. The fact that some people had come to tell them that we cared. There were many smiles and handshakes.
But underlying it all they are trapped in that hotel. They can’t leave. They can’t go to the shop to buy a snack or cigarettes. So many told us they can’t sleep.
The situation is overwhelmingly sad. Every person in that hotel has had to leave their homes and their loved ones behind because of situations that they cannot control and did not ask for. No one does that by choice.
We met people from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Iraq – these are some of the most dangerous places in the world. Their homes have been bombed, villages ransacked. Their children have been persecuted. Some have been horribly tortured.
They came here to ask for our help, believing the UK to be a place of sanctuary. And they have been met with hostility and fear.
We do not know the actions of one person that have offended the local community. That is for the police to determine. But we do know that the actions of one should not lead to the judgement of many. There are people who have committed crimes in nearby Walton prison but no one says the whole population of Liverpool are criminals; far from it, scousers are known for their strong community and good humour. In exactly the same way these 200 asylum seekers should not be judged by the actions of one man. They are simply people.
If you not believe that asylum seekers should not be housed in a hotel then write to our government and ask them to process their asylum claims. They should be allowed to work get on with their lives and provide for themselves. There is not a single person in that hotel who either asked to be or wants to be there.
We sat and chatted to them for around two hours. Overwhelmingly they were calm and gentle. Given all that they have been through and suffered in their home countries they are fatalistic and forgiving. They understood the position of the local community and all they wanted was reconciliation. And to finally feel safe.
It felt our honour and our privilege to meet these people who have suffered so much. I wish the local people who were at the demonstration could likewise sit and talk to them and understand that these are just human beings who also have problems. Nothing more. And the only way that we will find safety and happiness in our own futures is to understand that people, no matter where they are from, are just like us. They care for their families. They worry about the future. They want the world to be a better place for everyone.
We are raising money to take basic supplies to those in the hotel as many are newly arrived with just the clothes on their backs and don’t have fresh underwear, proper shoes or warm coats.
You can contribute at care4calais.enthuse.com/cf/3d0b/knowsley#!/I
Andrew Mitchell says disorder in Merseyside ‘totally unjustifiable’ as government faces criticism over ‘dehumanising’ language
Violence outside a hotel housing asylum seekers in Knowsley was “completely unacceptable”, a minister has said, amid growing criticism of the government’s use of “dehumanising” language to describe people seeking refuge in the UK.
The international development minister, Andrew Mitchell, said the violent scenes in Merseyside on Friday night, in which a police van was set alight and stones were thrown, were “totally unjustifiable … and the government condemns it absolutely”.
11 February 2023: Care4Calais: Far right riots at Liverpool hotel
As I write this, I am trapped in a hotel car park in my home city of Liverpool, surrounded by a violent mob of far-right thugs.
Tonight that mob came to this hotel, the Suites in Knowsley, which is currently being used to house refugees who are victims of torture and war, to protest at the presence of refugees in the city. They say they did this to defend the British way of life; in fact they set fire to a police van, attacked the police and then tried to attack our peaceful counter-protest. Attacking those who uphold the country’s laws seems a funny way to defend said country. With friends like these, the British way of life might ask itself who needs enemies.
The night began with so much hope. About 150 counter protestors had arrived and were sharing friendship abd a spirit of solidarity with the refugees houses in the hotel. Many were new arrivals, and must have felt scared, so to be able to reassure them was good. But as the far right arrived it seemed huge numbers had been shipped in from out of town. Initial reports suggest there as many as 400.
There were a large squad of police, but with sheer weight of numbers and conspicuously good organisation, they broke through police lines and reached a van. They attacked and ransacked the van, and one thug clambered onto its roof before the mob set it on fire.
At this point extra police officers in riot gear arrived, and we became deeply concerned for our own safety and that of the refugees. It seemed all hell was breaking loose: shouting, fireworks being thrown, more fires lit, police vans with flashing lights arriving and then what seemed like the burning van exploding. As the mob advanced on the hotel, we were surrounded on three sides, and it became evident the police may not have enough resources to protect us from attack; we desperately barricaded the gates with any debris we could find, and hoped the police would be able to make a way out for us. Roads around the hotel have been closed. We are still here as I write.
The Labour MP for Knowsley, Sir George Howarth, had issued a statement shared by the local party in which he urged people not to take the law into their own hands.
He added, “the misinformation about refugees being feather-bedded is untrue and intended to paint a picture that does not at all represent the facts.
“The people of Knowsley are not bigots and are welcoming to people escaping from some of the most dangerous places in the world in search of a place of safety.
“Those demonstrating against refugees at this protest tonight do not represent this community. We are not like that and overwhelmingly behave with sympathy and kindness to others regardless of where they come from’.”
We can only hope people listen.
I am deeply shocked and shaken at what I have witnessed in Liverpool tonight. I have sympathy with anyone in our country who is concerned for our services or their own future, but terrorising victims of war and torture is unforgivable. The burning police van and broken police cordons are a sure sign that our politicians’ rhetoric of hate and division is now destroying our society and our British values. Looking at those demonstrators, I don’t believe they really care about our country; I think they’re full of hate, and looking for somewhere to direct it.
And like all bullies, they pick on the most vulnerable. That’s why my greatest concern is whether the police can keep the people in this hotel safe both tonight and in the future.
3 February 2023: Guardian: Afghan refugees protest against plans to move them from London to Yorkshire
Some of the refugees worked alongside British army before Taliban took power in 2021
Afghan refugees have protested against the UK government’s plans to move them 200 miles from London to Yorkshire amid claims that they could challenge the decision in the courts.
Carrying homemade placards saying “Do not disturb our education”, more than 120 people – including teenagers and toddlers – gathered outside Downing Street on Friday.
The Guardian disclosed on Thursday that the Home Office had told 40 families with 150 children who have lived for more than a year in Kensington, west London, that they must leave the capital next week for another hotel in Wetherby, on the outskirts of Leeds.
31 January 2023: Guardian: Home Office publishes details of £70m contract to house asylum seekers
Charities have criticised ‘warehousing’ centres, calling instead for better integration in society
Details of a £70m contract to put asylum seekers into controversial accommodation centres have been published by the Home Office, the Guardian has learned.
The Home Office has said repeatedly it wants to move tens of thousands of asylum seekers out of hotels, which are costing about £5.6m a day. But its first attempt to set up such a centre at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, in North Yorkshire, stalled after local opposition, including from Conservative politicians and the threat of legal challenges. Since then no other concrete plans have emerged.
In December, the Home Office added the £70m project to its procurement pipeline, the mechanism that it says provides a formal look at its “anticipated outsourcing activity over the next 24 months”.
Officials aim to run a “mini-competition” for the contract to design, build or renovate these centres and to manage them. The programme is due to run from June. Charities have criticised the centres as acting as “warehousing”, advocating instead for asylum seekers to be accommodated in communities. They say these centres “blur the line” between detention and accommodation.
While the Home Office has frequently promoted the idea of accommodation centres, information about how they will operate has been scant. When the news emerged last August that the Linton-on-Ouse centre would not be going ahead, the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said four other Ministry of Defence sites had also been made available to the Home Office “if they want to take it up”. It is not known where these sites are and whether plans are proceeding to develop any of them.
The Linton-on-Ouse proposal was to provide full-board accommodation for 1,500 single men for up to six months, with the contractor Serco due to manage the site. A shop as well as faith and medical services were planned.
Some contract information about the plans for a national portfolio of accommodation centres can be found on the website Bidstats. It states that “new-build sites utilising modular and/or modern methods of construction and/or traditional methods” along with “wraparound services including healthcare, safeguarding and education” are required. Consortiums are encouraged to get involved.
8 January 2023: Guardian: Revealed: child migrants racially abused and threatened with violence at Home Office hotel
Whistleblower tells of threats and illegal detention in fresh revelations about failures that drove children into hands of criminals
Children seeking asylum in the UK were threatened and subjected to racist abuse by staff at a Home Office-run hotel, a whistleblower has claimed as pressure grows on the government to act over the growing crisis in the system.
The source, who worked in the Brighton hotel for more than a year, said that in such an environment of “emotional abuse”, scores of children, who had arrived in the UK without parents or a carer, were driven on to the streets and into the hands of criminals.
An Observer investigation last week that revealed dozens of young people have been kidnapped by gangs from the same hotel, prompting calls for such places to be closed and for a public inquiry.
Child protection sources and a whistleblower working for a Home Office contractor described how youngsters were abducted from the street outside the hotel and bundled into cars. More than 200 children are missing after vanishing from hotels managed by the Home Office.
Another whistleblower has now come forward, claiming that some children in the Brighton hotel were also threatened that their asylum claims would be harmed if they “misbehaved” while others were punished by being detained – illegally – in the hotel for days.
I heard staff threatening to throw children out of the window, and joking about them going missing
The allegations of violent threats to youngsters – many of whom fled persecution in their home countries and are profoundly traumatised – will add to mounting pressure on Rishi Sunak to intervene and stop the Home Office’s “unlawful” use of hotels for unaccompanied children.
Updated 25 January 2023: Guardian: Home Office accused of ‘dereliction of duty’ over missing child asylum seekers
Unclear who has legal responsibility for children placed in hotels, after dozens abducted from street in Brighton
Ministers have been accused of a “dereliction of duty” over their failure to find 76 child asylum seekers who have gone missing from a Brighton hotel managed by the Home Office.
The accusation came during a parliamentary debate on Tuesday after an Observer investigation that cited child protection sources and a whistleblower working for a Home Office contractor, who described how youngsters had been abducted off the street outside the Brighton hotel and bundled into cars.
Caroline Lucas, the local Green MP, tabled an urgent question asking what steps the government had taken to trace the missing children.
The immigration minister Robert Jenrick said more than 4,600 asylum-seeking children had been accommodated in six hotels since July 2021, and 440 of them had gone missing. Some were later found but 200 remained missing and 13 of them were under 16.
Hansard: (Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary if she will make a statement on what steps she is taking to find missing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and to keep them safe
You can read the debate here:
21 December 2022: BBC: Migrants detained illegally, official email claims
Hundreds of migrants were illegally detained at immigration removal centres, according to Home Office emails obtained by BBC News.
The detention centres were used to hold about 450 people – described in one email as “overflow” from the migrant processing facility at Manston.
The email said their detention was “no longer legal,” adding: “We need to move them to hotels ASAP.”
The Home Office said an unprecedented number of small boat arrivals had put “huge pressure” on the asylum system.
The department said it had a legal duty to house asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute, and officials had worked “worked tirelessly to move people into hotels or other accommodation as quickly as possible”.
The email was sent on 4 November, the day after Home Secretary Suella Braverman visited Manston amid pressure to get a grip on overcrowding at the site.
According to a chain of emails, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the Home Office permanent secretaries – the department’s most senior civil servants – were made aware of the concerns at the time.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the emails “demonstrate the Home Office knew that they were breaking the law and lay bare how their chaotic failure to plan led to this situation”.
“Under [Ms Braverman’s] direction the Home Office has lost control of the system and has created potential substantial legal costs for the taxpayer.”
Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-64037136