Asylum seekers fleeing war, violence and persecution have endured “dehumanising” treatment while living in hotels amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report.
The Refugee Council said it was “deeply concerned” about the accounts and experiences it has heard after speaking to hundreds of asylum seekers who are in such accommodation in the UK while awaiting a decision on their claims.
The charity said some have routinely lacked “basic essentials such as shoes and coats, have been confined to their rooms for days on end while waiting for their one set of clothing to be cleaned, and have been left unable to access even basic healthcare despite many having complex health needs”.
According to the findings, there has been a decline in mental health as a result, leading some to “self-harm and experience suicidal thoughts”.
There have been around 9,000 asylum seekers housed in about 90 hotels during the pandemic, Home Office officials previously told MPs.
The department resorted to putting more people into hotels when the Covid-19 outbreak took hold and lockdown was imposed while routine accommodation was full.
Last month Home Secretary Priti Patel said the department’s aim is to have stopped using hotels by the summer.
Concerns were also raised about the quality of food available and a lack of internet limiting access to legal advice, education and health information.
Examples highlighted included instances where a man with kidney problems did not have sufficient access to drinking water and someone who struggled to walk being placed on the higher floor of a hotel without a lift, according to the charity.
Chief executive Enver Solomon said: “People who have fled war and persecution often arrive in the UK with just the clothes on their back, in urgent need of healthcare, nutritious food and other essentials such as toiletries.
“It’s appalling that they have had to suffer so much as a result of what to them feels like being abandoned in inappropriate accommodation with inadequate support for many weeks or months.
“The Home Office should have anticipated these basic needs and made sure they were provided for the children and adults in their care.
“To prevent this dehumanising treatment from continuing, we call on ministers to promise that every person seeking asylum receives appropriate support, including access to healthcare, basic clothing and essential services.
“People seeking asylum should be able to live in dignity, rather than in conditions that worsen their health and wellbeing.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “As part of our new plan for immigration, the use of hotels to accommodate new arrivals will end and we plan to introduce new asylum reception centres.
“The use of hotels to temporarily accommodate people was necessary to help safely manage demands on the asylum estate during the pandemic.
“Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with accommodation, a choice of three meals a day in line with NHS nutrition guidelines, as well as access to fresh fruit and drinking water and we work closely with our providers and local charities to provide other basics.”