Refugees in hotels told free access to medication and toiletries to be cut

Home Office has cut back on provisions for refugees under Afghanistan Resettlement Arrivals Project

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: 'We do not want people in hotels.' PA
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The Home Office has told asylum seekers staying in hotels it will stop providing them with free access to non-basic toiletries and “over the counter medication”, a letter seen by the PA news agency showed.

The letter, which states that the measures will come into effect on February 11, comes after it was revealed that the government is spending £4.7 million ($6.4m) a day housing asylum seekers in hotels, an estimated £127 ($172) per person.

Faiz Mohammad Seddeqi, a former guard at the British embassy in Kabul, has been staying in a hotel for almost six months after being flown to the UK from Afghanistan with his wife and son.

The 30-year-old received the letter on Thursday and, speaking via an interpreter, said: “When we see this kind of reaction and decision from [the] Home Office, it means ‘from onward, we don’t care about you and we are not concerned about you — you need to manage everything by yourself.”

Mr Seddeqi and his family are staying at a hotel in Watford which he described as “not very clean”.

“I’m not very satisfied at all living at this hotel, the hotel is not very clean, firstly … secondly, the food they are giving us is not good.”

The letter, addressed from the Afghanistan Resettlement Arrivals Project at the Home Office, reads: “Until now, in addition to your Universal Credit payments and the accommodation and meals provided in the bridging hotels, we have also provided some additional items.

“I am writing to inform you that from 11 February, we will no longer provide those additional items and you will need to purchase these for yourself using your Universal Credit payments.”

The letter states the asylum seekers will continue to receive “main meals”, including “baby food and baby milk” but will no longer receive “complimentary snacks, toiletries [aside from basic toiletries] or over the counter medication”.

“You will need to pay your own transport or taxi fares to appointments,” the letter adds.

Mr Seddeqi said he knows other refugees staying in his hotel also received the letter.

His brother, who wished to remain anonymous but also fled Afghanistan, said in response to the letter that he hopes those seeking asylum could feel “a little bit more” looked after by the government.

“It’s very difficult for every Afghan person [who] left their country and came here, because everything has destroyed our country — the infrastructure, our aims, our goals … everything has just collapsed,” he said.

“They are coming here to the UK … there was no other safe place, no other place for them to leave and achieve their dreams. Most of these people coming, they left their families in Afghanistan, like me — I left my two sons, my wife, my father, my mother.

“So, essentially, our humble request from the UK government is that they need to look after Afghan asylum seekers or evacuated people a little bit more because the situation currently going on in Afghanistan is the worst scenario.”

There are currently 25,000 asylum seekers and 12,000 Afghan refugees in hotels, a total of 37,000, the Home Office told the Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

At Wednesday’s committee session, MPs were told that the government is “optimistic” it will find a new way of working with councils “on how we manage these costs”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the policy is “thoroughly inadequate”, and added: “We do not want people in hotels.”

She also said the government and local authorities are “absolutely struggling” to move Afghan refugees into more suitable, permanent accommodation as the country does not have sufficient infrastructure.

The Home Office has been approached for comment but it had not responded at the time of publication.

Updated: February 04, 2022, 11:48 PM