UK asylum seekers accommodated in converted hostel with prison cells

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UK asylum seekers accommodated in converted hostel with prison cells


The asylum seekers are accommodated by the Ministry of the Interior in a former courthouse transformed into a youth hostel which promised nights in “an authentic prison cell” to backpackers.

Hundreds of people are believed to be in the facility – which appears to have been a form of “theme park” accommodation for courts and prison cells – some of whom have been imprisoned in the past in their home countries. origin, including Libya.

They said the experience of being locked in the UK in prison cell-like conditions traumatized them again.

The Guardian does not identify the facility after a series of far-right attacks on the accommodation of asylum seekers and refugees.

The hostel was previously a courthouse with a jail cell wing and has retained many prison facilities including cell windows and heavy old-fashioned cell doors with keys and jail-style bunk beds.

The hostel offers a mix of dorms and smaller rooms, including the old cells.

The Interior Ministry said the asylum seekers were staying in “ordinary hotel accommodation” and the part of the building with “experience rooms” was not accessible.

Internal Home Office email discussions on how to respond to Guardian questions were inadvertently sent to the Independent, who forwarded the correspondence to the Guardian.

In the emails, an official says of the response written for The Guardian: “I called them experience rooms to avoid saying jail. Can we say that no one stayed in the courtrooms or was they placed there inappropriately? “

It also emerged in the internal email chain that when Interior Ministry officials visited the hostel on October 25, they discovered overcrowding and a “fully furnished” courtroom.

He adds that some rooms had to be changed and beds removed to comply with local planning regulations. The emails indicate that no new asylum seekers would be moved during the changes.

Psychological experts have found that asylum seekers housed in military barracks, like Napier in Folkestone, by the Home Office, were again traumatized by the military environment – after fleeing military regimes or the United States. police or military violence.

While the use of the old prison wing was intended to provide light interest and history to backpackers who stayed there before the Home Office took control of the site, the wing has resonance very different for traumatized asylum seekers.

An asylum seeker who was staying there said: “Everything is so bad here. Some of us passed through Libya where we were imprisoned or tortured in other places. It hurts us a lot to live in a prison building even if we are not locked up. “

He said the prison style accommodation wasn’t the only bad thing. “We are all sleeping together and we are afraid of catching Covid,” he said.

He and others had complained to staff about the conditions, but nothing had been done, he said.

“I have problems sleeping and I don’t feel safe here,” he said. “We were in another place before they put us here, which was better than this one. They just move us like animals. They don’t care about us at all.

Steve Crawshaw, Policy and Advocacy Director of Freedom from Torture, said: “This week we heard the Home Secretary ridiculously claim that asylum seekers are drawn to Britain by the prospect of staying in our hotels.

“Now it seems they are treating the detention itself as a joke. The lack of fundamental humanity in the government’s approach sometimes leaves much to be desired.

Maddie Harris, founder of Humans for Rights Network, said: “It is unthinkable that the Home Office would use this location to accommodate people seeking safety, many of whom will have been detained in countries like Syria and Libya. .

“It’s extremely traumatic for them. This accommodation should be immediately closed and residents should be provided with safe and secure accommodation that does not resemble a prison.

A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said: “Due to unprecedented demand, we have had to use temporary accommodation such as hotels to fulfill our legal obligations.

“The health and well-being of those in our care is our priority, which is why all accommodation must adhere to relevant health and safety legislation and strictly adhere to Public Health England guidelines. “

This article was amended on October 29, 2021 to identify The Independent as the outlet to which the Home Office inadvertently sent email discussions on Guardian issues, and to remove a quote for identification purposes.

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