Woman in asylum seeker hotel ‘has to be careful’ after man ‘followed her and asked for her number’

More than 100,000 people are awaiting a decision on their asylum claim  (davidlee770924 / Pixabay)
More than 100,000 people are awaiting a decision on their asylum claim (davidlee770924 / Pixabay)

An asylum seeker who says she was followed by a man to her bedroom feels unsafe living in the hotel where she has been for six months.

The woman, who the Standard has agreed not to name, has been staying at the hotel for asylum seekers with her parents after fleeing her country amid political protests.

She is one of 143,377 people waiting for an initial decision on an asylum claim, according to latest Home Office figures.

The asylum seeker has a separate room to her parents, and she told the Standard she feels unsafe being alone.

“Last week I was taking the stairs to my room… and a man followed me saying ‘Oh you are beautiful, you are beautiful’.

“I [didn’t] know what to say, I mean he followed me to my room. He didn’t enter but he followed me to the door and he [asked] ‘Can you give me your phone number?’

“I [said] no because I was nervous…he followed me all that way and nobody was in the corridor.”

The woman claimed that when she initially arrived at the hotel there was a frequent police presence “because there was always fighting”.

“People [are] a little bit aggressive, mostly men.

“You have to be careful.”

The woman said her parents worry about her safety after a rape allegation was made at the hotel. A man was arrested in relation to the incident, Metropolitan Police confirmed, and has since been released under investigation while enquiries continue.

“Since that my my mum and my dad were afraid because I’m alone in the room and  my room is far away from them,” she said.

“Now they’re trying to put [in] more security, but if that [incident] happened to me last week, a man that followed me to my door, I don’t know.”

A Home Office spokesperson said it was dealing with an “unprecedented increase in asylum cases” but would make sure “accommodation provided is safe, secure and leaves no one destitute”.

“Our accommodation providers have robust processes in place to ensure that where someone is at risk, they are referred to the appropriate statutory agencies. This includes the police, NHS and social services.”

“Migrant Help is available 24/7, every day of the year, should any asylum seeker have any problems.”

The asylum seeker said that some hotel guests “stay in their room” because they do not have the legal right to work in the UK or have limited English.

She is calling on the Home Office to give asylum seekers temporary permission to work while waiting for a decision on their claim.

“We want to feel useful,” she said. “Not just be stuck in our four walls doing nothing.”

In response to an oral question in the House of Commons about asylum seekers’ employment, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office Simon Murray said that he opposed the idea.

He claimed on Tuesday that employment would become “a major pull factor for people crossing the Channel”.

The asylum seeker told the Standard she wished there was more communication from the Home Office about decision wait times.

The government has been critised by Labour and human rights advocates for its backlog in cases, which is causing lengthy wait times for asylum seekers in hotels.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused the Government of having “no proper grip or control” while Amnesty International UK said the system was in “complete disarray”.

Lauren Scott, Executive Director of charity Refugees at Home, said: “Lengthy stays in Home Office hotels can have an disastrous impact on people’s physical and mental wellbeing and on their long-term life outcomes.

“We know of people living in hotels for over a year, with families of five or six people sharing one room. There are no cooking facilities, no privacy, little autonomy.

“People are placed together with little regard for their background or circumstances, which carries real risks. We know of a number of LGBT asylum seekers who have been physically abused and threatened in their Home Office hotels.”

Lord Murray told the House of Commons on Tuesday: “The Prime Minister was clear in his remarks on December 13 that it is a key priority of the government to address the unlawful crossing of the Channel and ease pressure on the asylum system.”

Rishi Sunak said in his speech: “The cheapest and fairest way to solve this problem is for all local authorities to take their fair share of asylum seekers in the private rental sector.

“We need to process claims in days or weeks, not months or years,” he added.

Lord Murray said the Home Office will double the number of caseworkers to deal with the backlog by 2023 and reduce paperwork and interviews.

He said the Home Office employs 1,280 asylum caseworkers, and is expecting the number to be closer to 1800 by the summer, and 2500 by September.

Just 15,987 people were granted asylum or other leave in the year ending in September 2022.

The Government is spending almost £7 million a day housing asylum seekers in hotels and the costs could rise, MPs were told in October.