Dozens of asylum seekers are begging Boris Johnson to help them relocate them, saying Home Office housing in his constituency is uninhabitable.
The 18 dilapidated apartments in Uxbridge and South Ruislip have housed asylum seekers for years without any improvements – despite repeated complaints. Each apartment has five tiny bedrooms and no common space, in addition to the kitchens and bathrooms left clogged with lack of maintenance.
Some residents are victims of torture, have been trafficked and have faced other forms of persecution. A man says he was the victim of organ theft, having had a kidney stolen by an organ smuggling ring on his way to the UK. A charity that supports him said he made multiple suicide attempts.
The bedrooms are so small that there is only room for a bed and a wardrobe. Moisture and mold are rampant, as water drains from walls and ceilings. Rodents and cockroaches are also a problem. Broken appliances such as fridge-freezers and vacuum cleaners are not removed from properties, even if space is at a premium.
The apartments were provided by Clearsprings, the Home Office contractor who provides accommodation for asylum seekers in parts of the UK. When charity workers asked the company’s housing manager if the apartment reserved for an asylum seeker was kept at a decent standard, the manager replied “lol”. A screenshot of the message exchange was shared with Clearsprings but he declined to comment.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said the accommodation “clearly does not meet the high standards we expect from our contractors, who are now solving this problem.” Hillingdon City Council held an urgent inspection of all apartments on Wednesday to determine whether the accommodation meets minimum standards of “repair, safety and comfort”.
Residents say electricity was cut overnight to save money. People also complained that the hot water was shut off without warning. The landlord told The Guardian he knew nothing about these claims and was not responsible for maintaining the accommodation. Cromwood, the company that manages the properties, said: “We take the safety and well-being of residents very seriously and will always make any repairs that are brought to our attention promptly. “
An asylum seeker imprisoned in his home country said: “The room I have to live in is the same size as my prison cell in Iran.
A Sudanese teenager, who looks much younger than his 18 years old and spent five years traveling in extremely difficult conditions before reaching the UK, told the Guardian that a hole in his sloping roof means that water flows when it rains. “When the water comes in, I put plastic bags on my bed to keep it dry and crawl under the bed to stay dry and sleep there,” he said.
A resident has repeatedly complained to Home Office contractors and Hillingdon Council that smoke and fumes are entering the apartment from the grill extractor of a nearby restaurant. The asylum seeker claims that he then developed breathing difficulties. He eventually lodged a complaint with the local ombudsman for failing to conduct a proper investigation. The ombudsman spoke out against the council and said he was at fault for not properly investigating the matter and causing injustice to the claimant who complained.
The ombudsman’s report, released in January, called on authorities to inspect the property. The council said it carried out two unannounced inspections in September and November, but did not identify any smoke during its visit. A spokesperson said asylum seekers in the apartment were told to contact them when the problem arose so they could come and inspect afterwards.
The asylum seeker said: “I have lived here for over five years and have complained several times but nothing is being done. When I contacted Boris Johnson’s constituency office a few years ago about accommodation issues, they helped me out. But I contacted them again to ask them for help because of our poor living conditions at the start of the pandemic and I never got an answer. I asked the Prime Minister to help us get out of this place.
Boris Johnson’s constituency office has been approached for comment.
Hannah Marwood of the charity Care4Calais said: “We were horrified to see the conditions in which so many people have lived for so long. This is not the first time that we have supported people in such unacceptable housing. It is an unworthy and ultimately dangerous way to be forced to live. “
The Interior Ministry spokesperson added: “We are facing unprecedented pressures on the asylum system but, despite this, we continue to ensure that the accommodation provided is safe, comfortable and secure. “