...this is not about food or bed bugs. It is about human beings being warehoused for profit by one company and the systematic abuse of their most basic human rights which leaves people functionally destitute...
Robina Qureshi of Positive Action in Housing writes the following news item and a call to action:
Last Thursday, our staff and volunteers were working on the ground, organising food, PPE and mobile phones for the asylum seekers who were moved after the Park Inn Tragedy on June 26 to the Hallmark Hotel in Glasgow. This happened barely six weeks following the death of a suicidal Syrian refugee, Adnan Elbi, on May 5 in the Mclays Hotel.
All were placed in hotels by the Mears Group, an outsourcing company working in Housing management & social care, employing 10,000 people. (In relation to the growing scandal in Glasgow, six Scottish MPs refused to meet with Mears CEO John Taylor on Friday 26 June 2020, citing “trust issues”.)
While there, two asylum seeking approached us. “Ahmed” said there were people struggling at a place called the Tartan Lodge, where Mears has placed them. The next day, we visited the Tartan Lodge. One of our volunteers Umran Amin brought halal meals, chicken and rice, with some dessert.
There are 30 people from Iraq, Iran, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Vietnam and elsewhere being kept in the Tartan Lodge under the “care“ of Mears, They complained of being malnourished with food not fit for human consumption and left without any money or support.
The kitchen is off limits. The laundry is allowed once a week. You wash your clothes in sinks or under the bathroom shower. The rooms are not cleaned. Bedding has not been changed in 90 days. People complain of bedbugs.
The most mentioned problem was food. It’s not enough, not the right kind, and unsuitable for different cultures. There are no plates. The food is brought in plastic take away containers. Your entire meal is that. You eat out of them. One couple asked for plates, and were given one plate between them. The lady that brings the food warms the containers in a microwave and gives the food to residents barely warm. People tell us they have to return the cartons, and these are reused and redistributed until they fall apart. “Nadeem” said that he splits his breakfast of plastic wrapped dry croissant and apple in case the food is so bad at lunch. Sometimes the lunch does not arrive until 2 or 3 pm. You wait and wait.
All bar none have complained about poorly cooked food problems and in some cases bed bugs . One young man was covered in bed bug bites Many are desperately worried about families back home. Amongst them:
- A former UN worker of 18 years standing who had to flee for his life, and desperately worried for his family.
- A civil servant from Sierra Leone forced to leave his country to save his life
- A highly articulate wealthy musician who became stranded here due to US sanctions on Iran which prevent him accessing his money.
- A couple who have got refugee status and are the responsibility of the council to rehouse.
- One man is deeply isolated. He spoke no English at all and no one speaks his.
Six people did not have functioning smart phones until our volunteers Eilidh, Lisa and Jake brought one.
Nasir said that many people sleep in order to dissociate from what is happening around them. He said:
“We have complained to Migrant Help and Mears. They say they will look at it but nothing happens.”
Another man said:
“I complained about the food, and she said if you don’t like it, you will be sent to a detention centre and then you will be deported”. .
In response, we arranged crisis support for those in greatest need, sourced mobile phones. We have deployed some amazing volunteers to take food, help clean flats and even deliver clean beds and furniture for those being moved into homes.
Yesterday, on Monday 6 July, we organised a press conference to highlight the living plight of people at the Tartan Lodge. We were due to start at 11 am. At 11.09 am, I received a text message from a young man from Sierra Leone saying:
“The hotel people have closed the door”.
At 11.17 am, another message saying
“The guys are stopping us not to go out”.
Then another saying
“They closed the door”.
Eventually, the men managed to get out. They told the assembled press what happened.
While the people of Glasgow once again pick up the pieces of Mears neglect and provide human support, the Mears Group picks up a lucrative £1.2B Asylum Housing contract.
It’s CEO John Taylor has failed to attend a single interview or answer any of the concerns raised since Adnan Elbi died alone in his room at the Mclays Guest house or the treatment of refugees at Park Inn, the failure to carry out the most basic of vulnerability checks before moving people.
Ultimately though, this is not about food or bed bugs. It is about human beings being warehoused for profit by one company and the systematic abuse of their most basic human rights which leaves people functionally destitute, systematically isolated, and fearful of being punished for fear of their case being affected if they speak out about the shameful conditions they are forced to endure.
People are terrified of being made destitute and being returned to dangerous countries. It is a matter of shame that up to the present time, this apartheid system operates for those who come to our country to seek refuge. It is time for the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council go do more to stop Mears and the Home Office in their tracks and challenge the abuses of the most vulnerable.
If you want to help, please support our Call to Action below and give a regular donation, however modest.
CALL TO ACTION
There is a humanitarian crisis going on in Glasgow.
We are calling on the Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken to instruct her officials that the policy of Glasgow City Council is that the asylum housing contract should revert to Council (in the same way as sheffield Council has done)and for the Mears contract to be terminated by the Home Office.
Therefore we are renewing our call for a public investigation into the treatment of asylum seekers in Glasgow at the hands of Mears. Almost 1000 organisations and private citizens have now provided message of support and signed in support of a full public investigation into the failure of Mears/Home Office to carry out its duty of care or vulnerability assessments with a community of people who have been left highly vulnerable. To add your name, click here .
Visit Positive Action in Housing: https://www.paih.org/