Mears may house asylum seekers in Glasgow hotels ‘until end of year’

Hotels are likely to still be used for emergency accommodation for asylum seekers in Glasgow for at least another four months, according to reports.

Mears may house asylum seekers in Glasgow hotels ‘until end of year’

Responding to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Home Office contractor Mears moved around 350 asylum seekers out of apartments and into city centre hotels for accommodation and support.

As lockdown restrictions began to be relaxed, the company made plans to safely begin moving the service users into appropriate dispersed accommodation until their claim for asylum was heard.

However, an email from Mears, which has been leaked to BBC Scotland, revealed this process is being hampered by a lack of housing supply.

It read: “Based on the demand and lack of procurement we will still be in hotels by the end of this year.”

The decision of Mears to move asylum seeker into hotels has come under intense scrutiny following the death of Adnan Olbeh, a Syrian asylum seeker who was found in a Glasgow hotel room in May, and again after the Park Inn Hotel attack where six people were stabbed and the attacker, Badreddin Abadlla Adam, was shot dead by police. Both of these incidents took place at hotels chosen by Mears to house asylum seekers during the health crisis.

A report published last month by the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that warnings about the adverse effect that placing asylum seekers in hotels and serviced apartments for long periods of time could have on their wellbeing were issued long before Mears took the measures in Glasgow.

The NAO also highlighted that the contractor had previously been fined £3.1 million for missing targets to move people onto more long-term secured accommodation quickly enough.

A spokesman for Mears told BBC Scotland: “We currently do not have sufficient accommodation to move all of the people accommodated in hotels out.

“The major constraint is the availability of suitable vacant accommodation… Mears will continue to do all in its power to end the use of hotels and ensure everyone has a home of their own.”

BBC Scotland said it understands the number of asylum seekers in hotels is now less than 250 across the city.

The Mears spokesman added NHS staff and welfare officers were on site at the hotels to provide support and refer anyone who needed it for mental health support.

He added: “We recognise that being in a hotel for a long period is difficult for service users and we have prioritised moves to dispersed accommodation for people who have been in hotels for longest, or where there are specific health or welfare concerns.

“We are working with the Home Office and Glasgow City Council to review and improve the awareness and support around mental health issues amongst asylum seekers.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “The use of hotels as asylum accommodation is a temporary measure in response to the unprecedented public health emergency.

“We are working with local authorities to secure the suitable longer-term accommodation needed.”

He added: “We provide all destitute asylum seekers with accommodation and support whilst their application for asylum is being considered, including free meals, access to healthcare and a 24-hour helpline run by an independent charity.

“This is paid for by the taxpayer so there is no cost to the individual.”

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