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CHARITIES in Scotland warned today of a “humanitarian crisis” in Glasgow, with asylum-seekers in the care of the Home Office reportedly left malnourished and living in “slum housing.”
Representatives of refugee support charity Positive Action in Housing (PAIH) said that many asylum-seekers have been served food “not fit for human consumption” and some have been placed in accommodation infested with bedbugs.
Asylum-seekers in Glasgow are slowly being returned to independent accommodation after months in hotels.
Those under the care of Home Office contractor Mears were taken out of their homes at short notice in April and had their financial support removed.
And those in hotels have reported receiving mouldy, inedible food and that vulnerable survivors of human trafficking and assault have been suffering heightened anxiety and fear.
Following an incident on June 26, in which a man was shot dead by police after stabbing six people at a Glasgow hotel, Mears and the Home Office gave assurances that they would begin resettling service users in new homes.
But with many continuing to live in cramped hotels, the horrific conditions endured by asylum-seekers have been highlighted.
People being housed at the Tartan Lodge hotel in Glasgow gave a press conference outside the building today to describe the conditions there.
They alleged that they had initially been locked in but had managed to get out to speak to the press.
PAIH director Robina Qureshi said that many are reluctant to speak out for fear of being sent back to face “death or persecution.”
She said: “They are terrified of speaking out as they have been threatened. They are terrified of being returned to dangerous countries, subjected to an abuse of their most basic human rights, warehoused for profit in cheap hostels.
“There is a humanitarian crisis going on in this city, where there are 5,000 asylum-seekers.”
As some of them return to independent accommodation, activists supporting refugees said that the flats used are “dirty” and “uninhabitable.”
PAIH is calling for a public investigation of the situation and for the Home Office to cancel the Mears contract.
Ms Qureshi added: “We’re all getting messages from refugees that Mears are removing people into slum housing – dumping them into the dirtiest flats, some with excrement on the bed.
“This is about systematic abuse of human rights, keeping people isolated and destitute. It’s as if Mears is trained in the fine art of isolating human beings from others.”
Glasgow’s MPs have branded the situation a “national disgrace” and talks between Scots politicians and Tory ministers are set to take place this week.
The SNP’s Chris Stephens said: “We know from feedback from asylum support organisations that food refusals are taking place in hotels, as the provision is either of poor quality or culturally inappropriate. This has been raised for weeks.
“The fact this is still going on is a national disgrace. Charities are now having to step in.
“There are too many discrepancies between Home Office and Mears claims and the reality on the ground.
“An urgent independent investigation is now required, to look at the provision of asylum-seeker services during Covid.”
The Home Office denied all the allegations, claiming that asylum-seekers’ essential needs are being met.
A spokeswoman said: “Like everyone else in the country during the coronavirus outbreak, asylum-seekers have been asked to stay where they are and to follow social distancing to help fight the spread, which has meant standing up temporary accommodation.
“For anyone with any issues, there is a 24-hour hotline available for support and it is fundamentally untrue to suggest that they are threatened with detention or deportation if they complain.”
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