23 September 2022, 08:54
LBC has been inside a hotel housing asylum seekers in North West London, where an Afghan midwife says she and her daughter are “afraid to use the corridors at night”.
A breastfeeding mother also told LBC she “has to choose between clothing and essentials” for her baby on an allowance of just £8 a week.
More than 400 migrants are living in the 336-room hotel, but female refugees say “only 30 or 40 of them are families”, and the rest are “all single boys”.
LBC met Lila* – an Afghan refugee who escaped the Taliban ruled country with her 11-year-old daughter.
She told LBC they are by the hundreds of men from “all different countries and cultures”, who occupy most of the hotel and drunkenly roam the halls.
After her husband was killed, Lila faced a forced marriage to her brother-in-law. Her late husband’s family also intended to “take” her child, and Lila feared for both of their lives.
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Although the Taliban had not yet taken control of the country, they were advancing, and Lila and her daughter fled across Europe. They eventually made it to the UK in April, which they saw as “secure”. They have since have been living in the North London hotel with an allowance of just £8 per week.
Lila said, “Sometimes after eight and nine we are afraid to use the lifts and corridors because they [male occupants] are drinking at night, and coming around in a bad situation.
“I am single, I am alone with my daughter, and we are afraid. What should we do? We came here to be secure.”
She described how one night, a “drunk boy” came banging on their bedroom door whilst her 11-year-old was in the room alone.
“He was drunk and confused and came and knocked my door – he banged the door and shouted why is it not opening, and he put the card on the door to try and open it many times.
“My daughter was crying because somebody wanted to enter our room. He apologised and said he didn’t know it was the wrong room, but for two or three days she was sad and crying.”
29-year-old Lila is a qualified midwife and speaks fluent English. She wants to work in the UK but can’t whilst her asylum claim is being processed. She hasn’t received any updates on the status of her application.
She showed LBC examples of the meals that are served in the hotel which includes one slice of bread, one slice of processed cheese, and an apple. Most other meals are microwave ready-meals, or food that is “unbearably spicy”.
Lila said, “The food is not good, it’s like hospital food.
“My daughter knows how to be patient, but sometimes for three or four days she doesn’t want to eat anything. But I don’t have money to go and buy something for her.”
She also described aggressive behavior from kitchen staff, saying “their treatment is like we are in jail and we want something from them. Sometimes we just say ok, I don’t want any more because we don’t want to argue with them. They’re looking bad over us.”
LBC also met Naza*, a 28 year old Kurdish asylum seeker living in the hotel with her husband and their 14-month-old baby.
Speaking through a translator, Naza told LBC she “goes hungry most days” because the food is too spicy to eat whilst she is breastfeeding.
She said her daughter “is fed potatoes every day but she will not eat them, and she has lost weight. When we ask for something different, they tell us to go and feed the baby bananas.”
Naza said she is forced to choose between buying new clothing or essential items for her baby using their £8 per week allowance.
“We spend the £8 a week on essentials for the baby like diapers, shampoo and body wash, because the products at the hotel are poor quality and her skin and hair doesn’t like it.
“We can only buy clothes for her in Primark, but she grows very fast.”
She describes the rooms as “like small prison cells” and says she is “constantly making sure the baby doesn’t hit her head or go into the toilet.”
The family are also forced to keep the baby’s dirty clothing and muslin cloths in their hotel room all week, because washing is only done on a Friday.
Naza’s husband Eylo* said: “They take it on a Friday and bring it back on a Saturday, but in the meanwhile you have nothing to wear. Sometimes it comes back and it’s not cleaned properly.
“The baby needs changing several times a day and we can’t wash her things ourselves – there is no facilities for that. We can’t wash it, we have to wait all week.”
What’s more, if they aren’t in their room to hand over their washing on Fridays, it won’t be collected until the following week.
Naza and Elyo are trying to go to college to study English, but they can’t get daycare for their daughter.
Both families told LBC they are concerned about being sent to Rwanda under the government’s plan to tackle small boat crossings via the channel.
Whilst the government has said children will not be sent to Rwanda alone, and family groups will not be split up by sending some members without others, entire families are eligible for removal to the African nation.
It comes as new Prime Minister Liz Truss and Home Secretary Suella Braverman are under pressure to implement the £1.5bn per year policy, following the cancellation of the first deportation flight in June.
In February, the Home Affairs Select Committee heard 37,000 asylum seekers were living in hotels in Britain, of which 12,000 were Afghan refugees. It’s estimated to be costing more than £4.7m per day.
A report by the Refugee Council also found the number of families housed in single hotel rooms increased by nearly a third (27%) in 2021 and included over 2,500 children.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with support whilst we consider their claim for international protection.
“This includes free accommodation and utilities as well as a weekly allowance and additional provisions for families with a baby or toddler who are accommodated in contingency hotels.
“Asylum seekers in hotels are provided with three meals a day.”
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the asylum seekers.