Priti Patel sued by asylum seeker over Covid curfew

Man claims conditions of his accommodation amount to a human rights breach

FILE PHOTO: Priti Patel arrives at Downing Street in London, Britain February 13, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Asylum seekers in UK hotels are living under restrictions tantamount to prison, alleges a judicial review lodged on Friday in the high court.

The case against UK Interior Minister Priti Patel is being brought by an asylum seeker, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

He claims he has been subjected to a 23-hour a day curfew, a deprivation of liberty which amounts to a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

His representatives, Matthew Gold Solicitors, have said they know of at least 11 hotels operating under such restrictions.

"There is no lawful or moral justification for imposing restrictions on the lives of asylum seekers which are more stringent than those being applied to the wider population," solicitor Rachel Etheridge told The Guardian.

“We call on [Priti Patel] to stop her accommodation providers from continuing with this practice which is negatively impacting the many asylum seekers who have come to this country seeking sanctuary from state abuse with an expectation of fair treatment.”

The National investigated the "frightening reality" of asylum hotels in November 2020. The article can be read here and the accompanying video watched below.

The claimant said that the curfew was a traumatic reminder of the persecution which he had fled.

The Interior Ministry robustly countered the accusations and said that any restrictions imposed on asylum seekers in hotels were in line with current Covid strictures.

“The government has a statutory duty to provide accommodation to asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute – the accommodation is safe and secure and they receive three nutritious meals a day – this is all funded by the taxpayer,” an Interior Ministry representative said.

“Asylum seekers in hotel accommodation are not detained – they are free to come and go as they please but of course, like everyone else in the UK, they must comply with the Covid restrictions.”

This is disputed by the asylum seeker who said he was told that absence from his hotel for more than one hour a day could jeopardise his right to accommodation. In England’s latest lockdown, people are not under any constraints when spending time outside so long as it is for an essential purpose or for exercise.

The representative's statement is also at odds with the findings of a recent London council investigation which found asylum hotels in its borough offered poor food, poor sanitation and small rooms.

In one such hotel in Reading, to the west of London, asylum seekers went on hunger strike in protest over conditions.

The high court gave the Interior Ministry until 4pm GMT on Friday to file a response to the claim.