‘Like a cell’: Asylum seekers staging protest over London hotel conditions

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The leader of Westminster City Council said asking the asylum seekers to share an “inappropriately sized room...defies common sense and basic decency”.

A group of asylum seekers placed in a Pimlico hotel by the Home Office were protesting in the street on Friday morning (June 2), with one of them telling LondonWorld the rooms offered were “like a cell”.

The demonstration had been ongoing since Wednesday evening (May 31), with the asylum seekers’ bags and other belongings lined up on the pavement outside the accommodation.

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When LondonWorld visited there were roughly a dozen men gathered, though Westminster City Council said there had previously been up to 40 people.

Consisting of asylum seekers from countries including Iran, Iraq and Syria, the group said they were asked to fit four to a room in the hotel, with the conditions described by one as “like a cell”.

“You can’t do anything,” they said. “You can’t practise your life.”

The asylum seekers outside the hotel on the morning of June 2. Credit: Ben Lynch.The asylum seekers outside the hotel on the morning of June 2. Credit: Ben Lynch.
The asylum seekers outside the hotel on the morning of June 2. Credit: Ben Lynch. | Ben Lynch

Cllr Adam Lug, leader of Westminster City Council, wrote to home secretary Suella Braverman on Thursday (June 1), expressing his “deep concern” that the asylum seekers had been “placed on the streets of Westminster…without appropriate accommodation or support available, and with no communication to Westminster as the local authority”.

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“As a result, 40 people were left on the street all night,” he wrote, adding that “neither the Home Office nor the hotel itself responded to this incident, ultimately leaving it to council officers to manage and support this large group overnight”.

He said asking a group of people “likely to have been through significant and traumatic events” to share an “inappropriately sized room with multiple strangers defies common sense and basic decency”.

“Such an approach clearly risks leading to similar incidents in the future, as well as creating safeguarding and health risks. Leaving them on the street for multiple nights is not an alternative,” he wrote. “I would ask that you confirm you will not pursue this approach in Westminster or elsewhere, going forward.”

The group had been camped outside the hotel since Wednesday evening (May 31). Credit: Ben Lynch.The group had been camped outside the hotel since Wednesday evening (May 31). Credit: Ben Lynch.
The group had been camped outside the hotel since Wednesday evening (May 31). Credit: Ben Lynch. | Ben Lynch

When asked what they want the Home Office to do, one of the asylum seekers said they are hoping to be moved to Whitechapel. This is partly because the other half of their group, which has been together for two years, is already based in accommodation there, though also because they believe they will be able to access greater support.

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He said Pimlico is a “very expensive area. We don’t have the money, we can’t work.

“There, people help us, in Whitechapel - a lot of charity.”

One of those LondonWorld spoke to said he was having suicidal thoughts as a result of the situation, and that he believed if they had been asylum seekers from Ukraine, they would have been treated differently.

“If you are Ukraine, you are respected.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Despite the number of people arriving in the UK reaching record levels, we continue to provide accommodation - at a cost of £6 million a day - for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute to meet our legal obligation.

“The accommodation offered to asylum seekers by providers, on a no choice basis, is of a decent standard and meets all legal and contractual requirements.”

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