Asylum seekers who have been put up in “generous” accommodation in central London but who are refusing to share the hotel rooms they have been designated could lose their right to public funding for housing, food or money, according to some ministers.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick is thought to have taken the tough line after migrants transported to the capital began to protest at having to share hotel rooms with their fellow asylum seekers. It is understood that he has ordered officials not to back down in the face of their demands for single rooms.
On Thursday 40 migrants started a protest on the pavement outside their Pimlico lodgings after barricading the hotel door with their luggage. When asked to do so, they refused to return to their rooms, telling officials they did not resemble the “nice” pictures they had seen on Google.
READ MORE: Migrants sleep on pavement outside hotel in protest due to over-crowding
They had been moved to the new accommodation from a hotel in Ilford, Essex. There, they had been treated to single ensuite rooms.
On Friday, the Telegraph reported that Mr Jenrick was thought to have instructed officials that migrants would not be allowed to choose the hotel of their choice or demand individual rooms, adding that this would put extra strain on taxpayers’ money. Mr. Jenick was quoted as warning that the asylum seekers could accept the government’s “generous” offer of accommodation — or lose their right to any help, including housing, food and money.
According to reports, letters are being sent to the migrants saying they will lose their support if they refuse the offer. One source was quoted as saying of the immigration minister: “He is not backing down. This is outrageous behaviour.”
Mr. Jenrick had earlier ordered that groups of two, three, or four single adult male migrants would be required to share a single room, rather than have individual rooms. Dubbed Operation Maximize at the Home Office, it was designed to cut down on the £6million a day cost of housing around 50,000 asylum seekers in hotels and make the “pull factor” of coming to the UK less attractive.
Meanwhile, the arrival of migrants to a hotel in central London was met with anger by the leader of Westminster City Council, Adam Hug, who accused the Home Office of failing to tell the local authority about the transfer.
Writing to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, he expressed “deep concern” at asylum seekers being on the streets “without appropriate accommodation or support available, and with no communication to Westminster as the local authority”.
The note continued: “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. I would ask that you urgently clarify how this was allowed to happen, why this was acceptable, and why no communication was made with the local authority.”
Blaming the situation on “poor management of their transfer from a hotel in Ilford, Essex”, he added: “When dealing with a group of people where many of whom are likely to have been through significant and traumatic events that have led them to seek asylum, asking them to share an inappropriately sized room with multiple strangers defies common sense and basic decency.”
The Telegraph quoted one 27-year-old Iranian as saying: “Two square meters is not enough for sleeping four people. And when you go to the toilet, the smell damages you.”
A 21-year-old migrant from Iran, who arrived in England after crossing the Channel in a small boat, said: “They said we’re going to move you to another, better place. They gave us this postcode. When we checked on Google Maps, we said, ‘oh this is very nice’. But when you get in, it’s like a jail. And they treat you very, very bad. They treat you like an animal.
“We didn’t come to a better life. We came to save our lives. If the Iranian government takes me, they’re going to hang me because I fought for freedom. I’m Kurdish. Too many people in my family, too many people in my nationality, they’re hanged.
“We’ll stay [on the street] until the Home Office does something for us. We can stay even for one month. It’s all right.”