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LABOUR called for an investigation today into allegations of intimidation and sexual harassment against asylum-seekers in a network of privately run hotels contracted by the Home Office.
The government accommodates about 9,500 asylum seekers in re-purposed hotels and apartment blocks across the country – sometime for years – while they wait for their claims to be processed.
Private firms such as Clearsprings Ready Homes are hired to run them.
But women living in these hotels claim that they have been sexually exploited and do not feel safe, the Observer reported today after a joint investigation with ITV News.
One woman said that staff had used a master key to enter her room and call the women “unpleasant names.”
Humans for Rights Network, which documents abuses of asylum-seekers, said it had received claims that women were being abused in a London hotel.
Residents were also said to have been illegally threatened by staff for leaving the premises.
In two hotels in north London, notices have been put up warning residents not to leave the site for more than a certain period of time or staff would call the police.
Some residents have allegedly been locked out for days or kicked out of hotels for supposedly breaking arbitrary rules implemented by staff during lockdown.
Home affairs committee chair and Labour MP Yvette Cooper said: “This is really serious. The Home Office has contracted with this company to provide an important service.
“If instead this company is potentially breaking employment rules … tax rules, or staff visa rules and not providing the right kind of service, that is exploitative. And the Home Office needs to be urgently looking into this.”
The Observer and ITV also reported that some staff working in hotels subcontracted by Clearsprings to another firm, Stay Belvedere Hotels Ltd, were being paid less than the minimum wage.
The investigation found that some staff – most of whom are foreign workers and students – are allegedly being paid as low as £5.60 an hour and that this practice is “widespread” at Stay Belvedere Hotels.
Clearsprings and Stay Belvedere Hotels both said that they will investigate the allegations.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Office has raised these serious allegations with our accommodation provider and will investigate them fully.”
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