UK Home Office using converted hostel with prison cells to house asylum seekers

UK Home Office using converted hostel with prison cells to house asylum seekers
2 min read
30 October, 2021
The hostel, used by the UK government, was previously a courthouse with a prison cell wing.
The UK Home Office has used a number of questionable facilities to house vulnerable asylum families [source: Getty]

Asylum seekers are being housed in a courtroom-turned-hostel by the UK Home Office, according to a report on Friday.  

The unnamed hostel was previously a courthouse with a prison cell wing and advertises a night in “an authentic prison cell” to travellers. 

However, for asylum seekers staying at the facility, some of whom were imprisoned on their journeys to find refuge, the accommodation is traumatising them, according to a report by The Guardian. 

“Everything is so bad here. Some of us have been through Libya where we have been imprisoned or have been tortured in other places,” said one Asylum seeker. 

“It makes us feel very bad to be living in a prison building even though we are not locked in,” he said. 

The asylum seeker also raised concerns about the potential spread of Covid-19 given that people “are all sleeping close together”. 

Hundreds of people are thought to be at the facility, which remains unnamed due to a series of far-right attacks on accommodations used to house vulnerable families. 

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Internal Home Office emails deliberating on their response to a request from the Guardian newspaper about the hostel were inadvertently sent to another UK newspaper, the Independent, and then passed to the Guardian

“I’ve called them experience rooms to avoid saying prison. Can we say that no one has stayed in courtrooms or were they inappropriately placed there?” read one of the emails. 

It was also revealed in the email chain that the Home Office visited the hostel on October 25 to discover overcrowding and a courtroom “fully set”. 

This is not the first time the UK Home Office has used questionable accommodation to house asylum seekers. 

A high court ruled earlier this year that Napier Barracks, an old army barracks in Kent used to house migrants, provided inadequate and unsafe accommodation resulting in a major Covid-19 outbreak. 

Last month a group of UK ministers and peers called on the government to stop using the "profoundly inappropriate" military barracks. 

There have also been numerous reports about hotels - repurposed by the Home Ofice for asylum seekers - offering jail-liked conditions that have led to further stress and discomfort for residents. 

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“It is unthinkable that the Home Office is using this place to accommodate people seeking safety, many of whom will have been detained in countries such as Syria and Libya,” said Maddie Harris, founder of Humans for Rights Network. 

“This is extremely traumatising for them. This accommodation must immediately be closed and residents provided with safe, secure accommodation that does not resemble a prison,” she added.