Asylum seekers speak of misery in Home Office hotels

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Hotel life is boring, with little to do. Elif tries to keep herself busy by taking free computer classes, improving her English and attending drama classes led by Women for refugee women. “I don’t want free time – if I have any, I always think of my family, my children and I cry,” she said.

While residents of these hotels are free to come and go as they please, Abu said most are too scared to leave, fearing that going out will cause them to miss an opportunity to be moved to longer-term accommodation. .

“If you go somewhere and suddenly a transfer comes, you will miss it,” he said. “They will punish you by having to stay more months, waiting for another opportunity.”

A Home Office spokesman disputed this – saying it was totally untrue that anyone would miss being moved to longer-term accommodation because they weren’t at the hotel at the time -the. They said people had been given ample notice – plus a date and time – that a transfer would take place.

“I can not stand it anymore”

Charities and activists have long warned that hotels are not suitable accommodation for asylum seekers, many of whom are traumatized and vulnerable.

In a recent reportthe Refugee Council said it was “deeply concerned” about the mental health of those stranded for long periods in hotels, noting that its staff had seen an increase in depression and even suicidal ideation, including among children.

At least 17 asylum seekers housed by the Home Office – including hotels – died by suicide or were suspected of committing suicide between April 2016 and May 2022, according to a report published by Liberty in June.

In February 2021, the Home Office announced it would “speed up” the movement of asylum seekers out of hotels into long-term accommodation. Yet the Refugee Council reported that the number of asylum seekers living in hotels nearly tripled in 2021, reaching a record 26,380.

Of these, 378 people had been in hotels for more than a year and 2,826 for more than six months. This is despite the Home Office’s own guidelines stating that hotels should only be used as a last resort and only for a maximum of 35 days, after which people should be moved to longer-term accommodation.

People tend to live in hotels at first, says Caroline Norman, project manager at the Refugee Council. Then, “five months later, they start saying, ‘I can’t take it anymore, I just want to get out of here. I feel like I’m going crazy, I just stay in my room”.

“It’s really starting to get to them and they can’t wait to get out there.”

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