ASYLUM housing provider Mears has countered claims made by a coalition of charities that are calling for an end to what they call “hotel detention”.
As told in the Glasgow Times, the Roof Coalition has launched its campaign End Hotel Detention – demanding that asylum seekers are housed in community accommodation.
The group, formed of housing, community, human rights and legal organisations, wants the Home Office and contractor Mears to improve living conditions.
A spokesperson for Mears, which provides asylum seeker accommodation on behalf of the Home Office, said it is working to reduce the use of hotels “wherever possible”.
They added that the safety and welfare of service users is of “utmost importance” to the company.
At the start of the first Covid lockdown in April 2020, hundreds of service users were moved from homes in accommodation such as serviced apartments and flats to hotels.
But Mears said it has staff, resident welfare managers, are based at hotels on a daily basis to support wellbeing and help resolve any issues or concerns.
Those living in the hotels have described a lack of nutritious food and no access to cooking facilities to cater for dietary or cultural requirements.
However, Mears said NHS Eatwell guidelines on nutritional content are used in the development of menus in hotels, which vary daily and are reviewed and changed every three weeks.
Among a raft of demands, the End Hotel Detention campaign is calling for adequate financial support for asylum seekers in Scotland.
It also calls for any changes to the asylum dispersal scheme in the country to be in consultation with the Scottish Government and affected Scottish local authorities.
The Home Office said “expensive hotels” cost the UK taxpayer £5 million a day and said the new Nationality and Borders Act, currently going through parliament, will “fix the broken asylum system”.
Sabir Zazai, CEO of Scottish Refugee Council, said: “People who have escaped wars and other violent conflicts need a home, a basis for stability and peace of mind.
“Temporary accommodation including hotel rooms can never provide this.
“Week after week, my colleagues see first-hand the damage hotel room accommodation causes to people and families, from children facing barriers to accessing education to very serious damage being done to people’s mental health.”
A Mears spokesperson said: “Due to the rise in the number of people seeking asylum and the lack of suitable accommodation, hotels are being used as a contingency by the Home Office across the UK, including in Scotland.
“Mears’ position is to provide accommodation in the community wherever possible and we will continue to work to reduce hotel use, as we have done in Glasgow.
“The safety and welfare of our service users is of the utmost importance to Mears.
“We continually review our approach and processes in seeking to provide the best accommodation and support to our service users and we work closely with all stakeholders, including the Home Office, public health authorities, local councils, and third sector bodies to this end.”
A Home Office spokesperson added: “Asylum accommodation is not a devolved policy.
“The Nationality and Borders Act will fix the broken asylum system across the UK, which is costing the taxpayer almost £5 million a day on expensive hotels.
“Asylum seekers are provided with safe and secure accommodation, ensuring no one is destitute.
“Asylum seekers have access to health and social care services from the point of arrival in the UK and all residents can access financial support while their asylum claims are being assessed.”
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