Two-thirds of London councils have signed a letter to the Home Secretary calling for a major overhaul of the government’s hotel policy for asylum seekers.
What follows is an unprecedented joint action removal of 100 asylum seekers from a hotel in Greenwich against their will last month, a move which has raised concerns across the capital’s councils. Around 40 asylum seekers refused to move from the Greenwich Hotel to one in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, and are still being held at the Greenwich Hotel. Both hotels were the target ultra-right protests.
The letter, led by the Royal Borough of Greenwich, was signed by 21 other London boroughs, including Barnet, Lambeth and Westminster.
It calls for Internal office treat asylum seekers with care and compassion and not uproot them at short notice from the communities in which they have settled, established support networks and may be studying or volunteering. It is calling on the Government to improve communication with councils, ensure that asylum seekers have their basic needs met and find longer-term housing solutions for asylum seekers rather than using hotels.
Anthony Okereke, leader of Greenwich, said: “It is appalling that people who have spent months and sometimes years rebuilding their lives, studying, volunteering and socializing, are now being removed and placed miles from their new homes against their will. .”
Along with the concerns expressed in the letter about the Home Office’s policy on hotels, human rights activists raised concerns about the risk of traffic from hotels to both children and adults seeking asylum.
Article 39, a charity for the protection of children’s rights at risk of litigation against the Home Office and the Ministry of Education if they do not stop the accommodation of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in hotels run by the Home Office. The charity claims children are kept outside the child welfare system and denied basic protections, and that there is no independent review of the welfare and treatment of each child.
The charity has taken what it describes as “exceptional action” by launching guardianship applications in the Family Division of the High Court for the 76 children left behind disappeared from the hotel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Brighton and Hove. If this application is granted, the court will consider the appointment of a guardian for each child and will monitor the actions taken by the government and others to protect them.
A separate case, which reached the Supreme Court on Friday, highlights that adults are also at risk of being abducted and trafficked or re-trafficked from Home Office hotels. In this case, the Home Secretary refused to support a victim from Vietnam who was abducted from a hotel by human traffickers. Under new legislation that came into force in January, some victims of human trafficking are no longer eligible for government support.
A victim who was convicted of growing cannabis while under the control of his traffickers received a letter from the Home Office, known as a community order disqualification, saying he was not eligible for support as a victim of trafficking. His lawyers challenged the POD and at the start of an urgent hearing on Friday the Home Secretary withdrew it.
His lawyer Maria Thomas of Duncan Lewis Solicitors welcomed the decision. She said: “The Home Secretary’s capitulation shows that once she is forced to look at the real facts and how the policy affects real people, it is illegal, unfair and puts survivors of trafficking at huge risk of re-trafficking and further damage”.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “We do not comment on live court cases.”