Rats, mice, and cockroaches are ruling asylum seeker ‘guesthouses’, where families are confined to small, overcrowded rooms with little sleeping space, that are being run by a contractor on behalf of the Home Office.
The Guardian gained access to and filmed inside of the Maharaja Guesthouse, made up of four houses home to hundreds of asylum seekers in Southall, where rooms cost £40 a night for a small double bed which would sleep a family of four.
Inside the buildings, the news outlet filmed rodents and insects that infest the homes, with one clip showing over 100 cockroaches scatter out of a kitchen cupboard.
‘Rats Run On My Children’s Faces’
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Talking to the Guardian, families described the conditions that they were forced to live in, with one mother claiming that rats would run over her children’s faces whilst they slept at night.
Another mother of an eight-year-old girl and nine-year-old boy, who have to share a bed, said that their mattress functioned not only as a sleeping area but also as their only living space.
“We are just breathing here, we are not living. The beds are not just where we sleep but our living room, our dining area, our laundry drying area and the study area for our children. The springs on the mattresses are oozing and they are full of bugs. The bed has become our whole world,” she said.
Toufique Hossain, of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, commented on some of the films taken inside of the property and described the conditions as “depraved”.
“The secretary of state is the slum landlord-in-chief. We are talking about deeply traumatised people. They have seen and experienced horrors that they will never shake. And here they are, in the United Kingdom, made to sleep with cockroaches. It is inhuman and degrading,” Hossain said.
A Hostile Environment
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The mother believed that they were being subjected to the conditions because of hostile environment policies.
“I think the Home Office encourages this type of thing. It’s all part of the hostile environment. It’s as if they’re sending a message to us saying: ‘if you can’t take it here go home’,” she said.
The “hostile environment policy” was introduced when now-Prime Minister Theresa May was the Home Secretary in 2012.
It is the name given to a set of administrative and legislative measures designed to make staying in the UK as difficult as possible for people who do not have a leave to remain – and to force them to leave voluntarily.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said that they took the wellbeing of asylum seekers “extremely seriously”.
“We demand the highest standards from our contractors and their accommodation. Where there is any suggestion they are not meeting the terms of their contract we will take immediate action,” they added.