Up to 600 asylum seekers are being housed in 98 rooms at a London hotel, at a cost of £500,000 for the British taxpayer. A recent inspection of the Queen’s Hotel in the south London suburb of Upper Norwood found that in some cases nine people were crammed into one room, while an earlier inspection had discovered 791 people in residence at the hotel.
According to the Daily Mail, one of the Home Office’s privately-run housing providers had placed the asylum seekers there without permission from the local authority or nearby residents. It had instead simply placed a long-term block-booking on the hotel, using half a million pounds of taxpayer money.
Local residents have since complained about a rise in intimidation, noise and anti-social behaviour, while paying guests have expressed their horror at finding themselves staying in a de facto asylum centre.
One of the asylum seekers, Mero, told the Mail that he had hidden inside a fridge on a lorry in Calais on his journey to Britain. He said: “My uncle told me Britain is the best place for refugees. Everyone in Eritrea knows you have to get to Britain, not Italy or France. I have friends there sleeping on the streets, and they have nothing to eat. In Calais, people are sleeping in the street. I know in the UK I will get something to eat and a bed to sleep in.”
The immigrants say that although conditions in the hotel seem cramped, it is still much better than their accommodation in France, with a solid roof over their heads and three meals a day from the hotel restaurant.
Mero said he is now hoping to be sent to Leeds to receive permanent housing once he has passed through the UK’s painfully slow asylum process.
Most immigrants staying in the hotel are awaiting approval for asylum, with many of them also trying to seek access to doctors. The Mail reports that some of the immigrants staying at the hotel even complained about the poor quality of food served, saying they were tired of having rice for every meal.
A Home Office spokesman told the Mail: “The use of hotels is only ever acceptable as a short-term measure, and we have made it clear to providers that they must make alternative forms of accommodation available as a matter of urgency.
“We have instructed our providers to cut substantially the number staying at the Queens Hotel, and to cease further bookings there by the end of the week.
“We took immediate action on learning of the situation to ensure the current use of the hotel met all local authority requirements.”