Croydon hotels housing asylum seekers have been tarnished by allegations of sexual harassment, suicidal residents, “inadequate and unqualified” staff and mould-infested rooms.
The Home Office owns three hotels in Croydon that are housing asylum seekers, with the largest one housing over 500 men and women.
Eastlondonlines spoke to Adam Yasir, the co-founder of the Croydon Refugee and New Communities Forum. He revealed the details of the living conditions in these Home Office hotels.
Yasir said: “I can confirm that environment in the hotels [is] unsafe … Croydon Police are aware of the sexual harassment happening in the hotels. One woman who has experienced this reported it to the staff, but they blamed it on her and threatened to move her to another hotel outside of London.”
The mental health conditions of the residents have also been badly affected: “I have already been told by asylum seekers that they have had suicidal thoughts as a result of living in these conditions. I am afraid that something bad will happen if further action is not taken soon.”
He also said the staff were “inadequate and unqualified” to look after so many asylum seekers: “There are 550 asylum seeker residents managed by just 17 staff in one hotel, who are all male apart from one female manager. The staff at the hotel get online training once a year and only meet up once a week altogether … The hotels are very sensitive environments, and they should be properly looked after.”
“When it gets this extreme, it reminds us that 550 is not just a number, it represents every individual living experiencing these conditions.”
Yasir added: “There are mushrooms growing in bathrooms and mould growing in bedrooms. Some residents are being prescribed asthma medication because of this.”
“Some rooms they are in have no windows, and some have windows, but they cannot be opened.”
Yasir also expressed worry about how difficult it was for them as a charity to enter the hotel, making it hard to support people living there: “When we try to visit staff make us wait up to half an hour outside before they allow us in the hotel.”
South Norwood Community Kitchen on Twitter also claimed that they had tried to visit the hotels that asylum seekers are living in to provide food, but have been turned away.
According to MyLondon, in line with immigration rules, these asylum seekers also are not allowed to work and are given an allowance of £8.24, with meals provided at the hotels.
The Croydon Refugee and New Communities Forum have held meetings this week to try and figure out how they can give the people in hotels more support. Yasir said: “We had meetings this week with local officials. I feel like they are not addressing the communities’ concern for the people in the hotels. They have become complacent.”
“We have tried to contact the Home Office about this, but it feels like they don’t really know what to do, they are just blindly rolling with the process.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The number of people arriving in the UK who require accommodation has reached record levels and has put our asylum system under incredible strain. The use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable.”
“There are currently more than 37,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £5.6million a day. The use of hotels is a short-term solution, and we are working hard with local authorities to find appropriate accommodation.”
Despite this, they claim the accommodation they provide is “safe, secure and leaves no one destitute.”
Government statistics in June 2022 show that there were 14,706 initial decisions made on asylum applications. This number is an increase from last year, however, it remains 29% below the numbers in 2019 before the pandemic.
Eastlondonlines asked the Croydon hotels involved and for a comment, but received no responses.