Walthamstow: About 400 asylum seekers told to leave hotel

  • Harry Low & Josh Mellor
  • BBC News and the Local Democracy Reporting Service

Image caption,

Protesters gather outside the hotel on Thursday morning

A protest has been held at a north-east London hotel after about 400 asylum seekers were told they must leave the accommodation.

The Home Office has housed hundreds of people, including families, at the hotel in Walthamstow while their asylum claims are processed, some since 2022.

Residents were told in a letter dated last Thursday their rooms would “no longer be available” from this Friday.

The Home Office said it took their welfare “extremely seriously”.

It said it did not “routinely comment” on individual cases or individual hotels but added: “Support is also provided to help resettlement in a new area, including regular welfare checks.”

Asylum seekers and members of the wider community protested outside the hotel on Thursday morning, calling for the decision to be reversed.

One resident, an asylum seeker from Iran who has been living in the hotel for a year, told BBC London she had received a notice about a week ago saying she would be moved out of London.

“I was really stressed and anxious, I was thinking about my daughter and I wanted to send her to nursery,” she said. “It was too much, I couldn’t sleep. I told them that I wasn’t going and I would refuse it.

Image caption,

Members of the community, such as Iftakhar Latif, protested on Thursday morning

“They gave me an address for Welwyn Garden City, an area which I don’t know and I am just about to sit exams here.”

She said she was studying for her GCSEs in English and maths, adding: “They told me that if I refused, I’d be homeless. It’s really unfair, such short notice.”

She explained that other families in the hotel had not been told where they were being moved to yet.

‘Really really shameful’

Iftakhar Latif, a volunteer at Faizan e Islam Mosque, said: “We’ve been supporting them since the beginning, they have settled, they’ve become part of the community, their kids are in school and they go to social gatherings, and now, all of sudden, they’ve been asked to leave.

“It’s really really shameful. They’re human beings, not cattle, and you don’t keep moving them from one place to another. They have dignity and we should have compassion.”

He added: “I understand it’s more cost-effective to bring asylum seekers together when hotels are half empty but it could have been phased over a few months, it’s bad management.”

The letter notifying residents of the moves was sent by the government’s asylum seeker housing contractor Clearsprings Ready Homes, which said it “would not” comment on a media inquiry about it instructing asylum seekers to leave the accommodation.

It remains unclear how far from Walthamstow residents will be moved, although Clearsprings said it would find “suitable alternative” housing within the Home Office-funded “initial accommodation estate”, which is usually hostels or hotels.

In its letter, Clearsprings stated: “We will aim to give you five days’ notice of your move, although on occasion this may be less.”

Those living at the hotel have been told they are “entitled” to bring two pieces of luggage per person to the new accommodation.

Image caption,

Protesters gathered around the hotel in Walthamstow

Prior to the protest, the priest-in-charge at St Mary’s Church in Walthamstow, Vanessa Conant, said the people living at the hotel were “members of our community”.

“They attend our faith organisations, our schools, our warm spaces,” she said. “They are very much our neighbours and we need to take care of them as we would any other neighbour or resident of Waltham Forest.”

‘No-choice basis’

Waltham Forest Council’s leader Grace Williams said they were “very disappointed” the asylum seekers were being moved from the area at “just a few days’ notice”.

“This is despite communication we received from the Home Office that hotels would not close until April,” she said.

“The news has understandably caused a huge amount of hassle and stress for vulnerable people who need our help,” adding: “We consider them to be Waltham Forest residents who must be treated with compassion and respect.”

Ms Williams added the short time-frame made “decent planning and support virtually impossible”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are making significant progress with moving asylum seekers out of hotels, which cost UK taxpayers £8.2m a day.

“Accommodation is allocated on a no-choice basis and individuals may be moved to other locations in line with the Allocation of Accommodation guidance.

“We work closely with accommodation providers and local authorities to manage the exit process in a way which limits the impact on partners and individuals alike.”

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