The Home Office failed to tell a council it was transferring migrants to their area before they mounted a pavement protest over their hotel conditions, the authority’s leader has said.
The 40 migrants refused to return to their rooms at the hotel in Pimlico, central London, on Thursday after claiming it was nothing like the “nice” accommodation they had seen on Google Maps and being forced to share four to a room on two bunk beds.
They barricaded the door to the Comfort Inn hotel with their baggage and remained overnight on the pavement where they slept with their blankets, duvets, and cushions.
After being overseen by police, the migrants re-entered the hotel on Friday to speak with a representative from the Home Office in an attempt to resolve the dispute.
The move came after Adam Hug, leader of Westminster city council, wrote to Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, to voice his “deep concern” at the asylum seekers being placed on the streets “without appropriate accommodation or support available, and with no communication to Westminster as the local authority”.
“Neither the Home Office nor the hotel itself responded to this incident, ultimately leaving it to council officers to manage and support this large group overnight. I would ask that you urgently clarify how this was allowed to happen, why this was acceptable, and why no communication was made with the local authority to alert us,” he wrote.
He said it was not “acceptable or right” to have asylum seekers forced to endure a night on the streets because of the poor management of their transfer from a hotel in Ilford, Essex.
“When dealing with a group of people where many of whom are likely to have been through significant and traumatic events that have led them to seek asylum, asking them to share an inappropriately sized room with multiple strangers defies common sense and basic decency.” wrote Mr Hug.
“Such an approach clearly risks leading to similar incidents in the future, as well as creating safeguarding and health risks. Leaving them on the street for multiple nights is not an alternative. I would ask that you confirm you will not pursue this approach in Westminster or elsewhere, going forward.”
The row blew up when the migrants were transferred from a hotel where most had been in single rooms with ensuite bathrooms to a hotel where four had to share a room with what they claimed were “smelly” toilets.
A 27-year-old Iranian said: “Two square metres is not enough for sleeping four people. And when you go to the toilet, the smell damages you.”
A 21-year-old Channel migrant from Iran said: “They said we’re going to move you [from Park Hotel] to another, better place. They gave us this postcode. When we checked on Google Maps, we said, ‘oh this is very nice’. But when you get in, it’s like a jail. And they treat you very, very bad. They treat you like an animal.
“We didn’t come to a better life. We came to save our lives. If the Iranian government take me, they’re going to hang me because I fought for freedom. I’m Kurdish. Too many people in my family, too many people in my nationality, they’re hanged.”
“We’ll stay [on the street] until the Home Office does something for us. We can stay even for one month. It’s all right.”
Their transfer is part of an attempt by the Home Office to reduce the £7 million-a-day cost of housing 50,000 asylum seekers in hotels.
Ministers are understood to be pressing for increased use of shared rooms amid concerns people smuggling gangs are exploiting the lure of hotel accommodation and the chance to see London’s tourist attractions.
Asylum seekers housed in hotels are free to come and go and receive £45 a week, or £9.10 a week if they get bed and board. Some 400 hotels have been commissioned to date, sparking controversy as some have been four-star country estates or the main tourist hotels in city centres.
In an attempt to reduce hotel costs, ministers have drawn up plans to house migrants in two disused RAF camps, a former prison site, army barracks and a barge but face legal action over most of the schemes.
The Comfort Inn declined to comment.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Despite the number of people arriving in the UK reaching record levels, we continue to provide accommodation - at a cost of £6 million a day - for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute to meet our legal obligation.
“The accommodation offered to asylum seekers by providers, on a no choice basis, is of a decent standard and meets all legal and contractual requirements.”