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Government pressured to end deal with contractors over appalling treatment of asylum seekers

THE government was pressured to suspend a deal with a private contractor today following the appalling treatment of asylum-seekers forced into hotels during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Glasgow MPs lobbied Tory ministers to explain the reasons for the horrific conditions being imposed on vulnerable asylum-seekers in Scotland. 

Pressure has been building on Home Office contractor Mears since April, when as many as 380 asylum-seekers were removed from independent accommodation and placed in hotels across Glasgow. 

In a press briefing last week, Mears confirmed that no vulnerability assessments had been carried out on those moved out of their homes and that their financial allowances had been removed.

Many who were stuck in hotels — including human-trafficking victims, pregnant women and families — said they had been left terrified by the conditions they faced. 

This continuing distress was followed on Friday by a violent attack carried out in one hotel in the city, in which a mentally distressed asylum-seeker was shot dead by police after stabbing six people. 

Today the government faced questions about  the appalling conditions from SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who said that many had been left traumatised by the incident and the current situation in hotels. 

Questioning Immigration Minister Chris Philp in the Commons, she said: “Mears have misled committee members, elected members, and have now admitted that no vulnerability assessments were carried out. When did he find out [that Mears had] lied to everybody about this and will he suspend their contract?”

She called for financial allowances to be reinstated and for all asylum-seekers to be returned to more suitable accommodation as soon as possible. 

Ms Thewliss ended by putting forward calls made over the weekend for a public inquiry to be held into Mears’ conduct, including the stabbings in Glasgow on Friday. 

Mr Philp responded by describing what he called Britain’s “proud history” of supporting asylum-seekers. 

He claimed that Mears moved people to hotels for safety reasons, and it was always the intention of the Home Office and its contractor to return people to independent accommodation as soon as possible. 

Mr Philp added that the hotels are “of good quality” but ignored requests to suspend Mears’ contract, or for a public inquiry to be held.

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