Asylum seekers in PM’s constituency claim accommodation ‘not fit to live in’
Dozens of asylum seekers are begging Boris Johnson to help rehouse them, claiming the Home Office accommodation in his constituency is not fit to live in.
The 18 rundown flats in Uxbridge and South Ruislip have housed some asylum seekers for years without any improvements being made – despite repeated complaints. Each apartment has five tiny bedrooms and no communal space, besides kitchens and bathrooms left filthy from a lack of maintenance.
Some residents are victims of torture, have been trafficked and have faced other forms of persecution. One man says he is a victim of organ theft, having a kidney stolen by an organ smuggling ring while en route to the UK. A charity supporting him said he has made several suicide attempts.
The rooms are so small there is only space for a bed and a cupboard. Damp and mould are rife, while water leaks from walls and through ceilings. Rodents and cockroaches are also a problem. Broken appliances such as fridge-freezers and vacuum cleaners are not removed from the properties, even though space is scarce.
The flats were provided by Clearsprings, the Home Office contractor that provides accommodation for asylum seekers in some parts of the UK. When charity workers asked the firm’s accommodation manager if the flat put aside for one asylum seeker was kept to a decent standard, the manager replied “lol”. A screenshot of the exchange of the messages has been shared with Clearsprings but it declined to comment.
A Home Office spokesperson said that the accommodation “clearly falls short of the high standards we expect from our contractors, who are now resolving this”. Hillingdon council has organised an urgent inspection of all the flats on Wednesday to investigate whether the accommodation meets minimum standards of “repair, safety and comfort”.
Residents claim the power has been switched off at night to save money. People have also complained the hot water is turned off without warning. The landlord told the Guardian he knew nothing about these claims and was not responsible for the maintenance of the accommodation. Cromwell, the firm that manages the properties, said: “We take residents’ safety and wellbeing very seriously and will always carry out repairs reported to us promptly.”
An asylum seeker who was imprisoned in his home country said: “The room I have to live in is the same size as my prison cell in Iran.”
A teenager from Sudan, who looks much younger than his 18 years and spent five years travelling in extremely difficult conditions before reaching the UK, told the Guardian that a hole in his sloping roof means that water pours in when it rains. “When the water comes I put plastic bags on my bed to keep it dry and crawl under the bed to keep dry and sleep there,” he said.
One resident repeatedly complained to Home Office contractors and Hillingdon council that smoke and fumes were entering the flat from a nearby restaurant’s grill extractor. The asylum seeker claims to have then developed breathing difficulties. He eventually made a complaint to the local ombudsman for failing to investigate appropriately. The ombudsman ruled against the council and said it was at fault for failing to investigate the issue properly and had caused injustice to the asylum seeker who complained.
The ombudsman’s report, published in January, called on officials to inspect the property. The council said it had made two unannounced inspections in September and November but did not identify smoke during its visit. A spokesperson said the asylum seekers in the flat have been asked to contact them when the problem occurs so they can come and inspect then.
The asylum seeker said: “I have lived here for more than five years and have complained many times but nothing is done. When I contacted Boris Johnson’s constituency office a few years ago about problems with the accommodation they helped. But I contacted them again asking for help because of our bad living conditions at the beginning of the pandemic and never got any response. I have 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 that so many people have been living in for so long. This is not the first time we have supported people in such unacceptable accommodation. It is an undignified and ultimately unsafe way to be forced to live.”
The Home Office spokesperson added: “We are dealing with unprecedented pressures on the asylum system but, despite this, we continue to ensure the accommodation provided is safe, comfortable and secure.”