New concerns over the fate of thousands of refugees living in British hotels have emerged after a council asked the Home Office to close temporary accommodation for refugee children over “protection concerns” and that ‘a lawyer revealed how he was prevented from assessing unaccompanied minors.
Brighton and Hove City Council has called on the Home Office to stop using a hotel containing dozens of refugee children, saying no initial risk or safeguard assessment from Covid-19 had been carried out. At the same time, a law firm said attempts to assess a 15-year-old Afghan detained in a hotel were prevented, undermining children’s rights, while other unaccompanied minors were punishable by “unlawful forced imprisonment”.
The developments raise further questions about the 15,000 refugees – including 7,000 Afghans – currently staying in hotels following the hasty evacuation of families from Kabul last month.
About 70 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are accommodated in hotels, 16 of whom are under 16 years old.
Councilor Hannah Clare, chair of the Brighton Children, Youth and Skills Committee, said the council had asked the Home Office to stop using a hotel near Hove over concerns for the good -being children and anger that the local authority had received less than 24 hours notice. of the government’s intention.
“We are of the opinion that the use of the site by the Ministry of the Interior for this purpose should cease. They threw a bunch of kids in there with no Covid risk assessment and no protection, ”Clare said. She added that dealing with the Home Office had been unpleasant, although they eventually managed to get council officials into hotels. “The Interior Ministry has been very difficult throughout the process. It took a lot of effort from our agents to get them to do things [to support the children]. “
She believes the government’s approach has compounded the trauma of refugee children arriving in the UK, many of whom crossed the Channel in small boats.
So far in September, more migrants have crossed the Channel in small boats – nearly 4,000 – than in any previous month since the crossings became popular. Last Wednesday alone, 459 migrants were intercepted on 14 boats.
Stuart Luke, senior lawyer at InstaLaw, said unaccompanied minors in hotels were effectively jailed because they were advised not to leave the premises. “They are de facto detained. We have so many young detainees who now have legitimate demands for unlawful forced imprisonment, ”he said.
Last week, a report on hotels used by the Home Office to accommodate asylum seekers said they resembled detention centers with often substandard accommodation.
Luke added that his company received a referral for a 15-year-old unaccompanied minor who was being held in a Kent hotel, but authorities prevented him from assessing the child. “We went there and they refused us entry. They were detained and clearly were not being held in children’s law accommodation, they were in a hotel, ”said Luke, also a director of the Kurdish Umbrella charity.
When he asked for the teenager to be taken outside, the officials refused. “They effectively denied them access to a lawyer, which clearly violates their human rights. In the end, the lawyer did not meet the child and has no idea what happened to him.
Elsewhere, questions have emerged about an organization apparently appointed by the Home Office in July – but without a competitive bidding process – to help provide support for refugee children in hotels.
The company, Greater Good Global, has raised eyebrows among many long-term refugee groups, with some questioning its previous experience of assisting unaccompanied minors.
Asked about the appointment process and relevant experience, Krish Kandiah, Managing Director of Greater Good Global, said: could be offered to unaccompanied adolescent asylum seekers staying in hotels.
He added: “I wanted to gather all the help I can get for the young people who need it.”
However, some refugee groups wrote to the internal affairs select committee asking them to investigate the hiring of the company.
A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said: “In a critical and urgent situation, the Home Office may contact a number of organizations to check if they are able to provide short-term assistance. Due diligence is undertaken on all potential suppliers before they are engaged by the Home Office to provide services. “
They added that they were aware of an incident in which a person claiming to represent a child staying in a hotel was denied access. “The individual had not been able to provide documents showing that his services had been retained,” said a statement.
He added : “We take the protection of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children very seriously and have measures in place to ensure that their welfare needs are met.