Closure of hotel housing asylum seekers in Muswell Hill imminent

Local campaign groups have been working to keep 24 asylum seekers resident in Muswell Hill for months, following the planned transfer by the Home Office of seven asylum seekers to Bibby Stockholm

Local campaign groups are escalating calls to keep a hotel housing 24 asylum seekers in Muswell Hill open, amidst its planned closure by the Home Office this month.

Haringey Welcome, a local organisation advocating for the fair treatment of refugees and migrants, has joined the campaign against the Home Office’s decision to close the National Hotel this April.

The group is organising weekly “vigils” to be held on Fridays outside the hotel on Queens Avenue, Muswell Hill Broadway.

A spokesperson for Haringey Welcome said: “We are campaigning alongside several other community organisations against the expected imminent closure of a hotel housing refugees in Haringey and their unnecessary and cruel displacement before their asylum applications were processed.”

It follows an ongoing campaign to prevent the removal of the asylum seekers. In December 2023, the Home Office attempted to transfer seven asylum seekers to Bibby Stockholm, a barge moored at Portland in Dorset which has faced criticism over its cramped conditions and possible safety issues.

Protesters, among them Haringey Council leader Peray Ahmet, were able to prevent the removal of the asylum seekers, though one had previously been removed by the Home Office. The Home Office said it was unable to share details about this asylum seeker’s current location.

Last month, Cllr Ahmet and cabinet member for health, social care and wellbeing Lucia das Neves sent a joint letter to home secretary James Cleverly to ask him to “reconsider the proposed closure”.

The letter continued: “Our opposition to the closure of the National Hotel is rooted in our commitment to upholding our responsibilities towards asylum seekers and ensuring their well-being.

“While acknowledging that residing in a hotel is not an ideal long-term solution, we are determined that no asylum seeker should be forcibly removed from their place of residence.”

In a press release, the Home Office said that the closure of 100 asylum hotels by the end of March was ‘part of the government’s relentless action to reduce the strain illegal migration continues to place on local communities’, with residents being moved into ‘large
sites’ and the ‘private-rented sector’. The Home Office say this has reduced the number of asylum seekers in hotels by 20,000 since six months ago, with hotels allegedly costing the government £8.2million a day.

Meanwhile, the government is still trying to pass legislation enabling them to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, after the Supreme Court said the plans were unlawful.

However, Haringey Welcome told HCP that the Home Office since hasn’t indicated where or what type of accommodation asylum seekers will be transferred to. The Home Office did not respond to HCP’s request for comment on this.

Haringey Welcome added: “We want people in our community to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their background or immigration status. People seeking asylum in the UK have endured immense hardship and trauma – in their home countries, on their way here, and often in years of waiting in limbo whilst their refugee applications sit in piles somewhere in the Home Office waiting to be processed. Often for more than a year, they are denied the most basic necessities that give us meaning and joy in life – to be able to work and be independent, to cook their own food, to start building their lives again, to reunite with their families.

“Moving the hotel residents now will destroy all the hard work they have put in to find a footing and a semblance of stability, whilst their lives were put on hold. It will rip them away from a local community that has welcomed them from day one, from the mental and physical wellbeing support that they need, and from the moral and practical support they have provided one another over the time they have spent together.”

The group added that the Home Office’s subcontractor, Clearsprings Ready Homes, which is employed to house asylum seekers, “has a track record of disregarding the safeguarding obligations they have for people in their care”.

“They made £62m of profit in 2022,” the spokesperson added. “This is more than 14 times the profit they made just two years earlier.”

Joanna Pienkowska at Haringey Migrant Support Centre commented: “The forced closure of the National Hotel is a stark symbol of the Home Office’s callous treatment of those seeking asylum in our communities. Abruptly uprooting residents from the support networks they’ve built in Haringey disregards their wellbeing, denies their humanity and undermines the fabric of our local community. We are all weaker when our communities are divided.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “We expect the highest standards from our accommodation providers and there are procedures in place which providers must follow to manage the well-being of those they accommodate.

“Residents currently accommodated in the hotels we will be exiting will be moving to other parts of our asylum estate. They will be notified a minimum of five days in advance and moved by the Home Office in line with our existing published policies.”

Clearsprings Ready Homes has been approached for comment.

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