March 2020: Christine, 40 years old with no family, had been sent (‘dispersed’) to Swansea to wait for her asylum claim to be decided. Her claim was eventually refused, so she was made homeless, with no recourse to public funds and no right to work.
But with the help of a local support organisation, she applied for continuing support from the Home Office, in accordance with Section 4 under emergency Covid regulations. This claim was successful. The Home Office would provide accommodation and, normally, a support allowance. Under Covid regulations, however, what is provided is ‘full board’ and no money at all.
Her successful Section 4 application actually wasn’t so successful for Christine.
She was moved to London, in the midst of the pandemic. This uprooted her. Christine had got to know people and was familiar with the support organisations in Swansea. She had a place on a College course, and she had made good friends. First, she was moved to Cardiff. A few days later, she and a number of other asylum seekers were put on a bus and told they were going back to Swansea. On the way, the driver got a call redirecting them to London. On arrival, Christine was told that she’d be taken to Scotland.
That didn’t happen in the end. But still, Christine was extremely distressed. She found herself trapped in a hotel, in west London, among strangers.
June 2020 – Christine’s support organisation in Swansea contacted the official advice line, Migrant Help, to complain about the lack of hygiene and unhealthy, insufficient food at Christine’s hotel. These photographs by Christine show the three meals per day everyone got, every day, always the same, day after day. Asylum seekers in that hotel are hungry. They have no money to buy additional food.
They have no money for soap and toothpaste, either. The hotel provides far too few basic toiletries. It is unhygienic, dirty and unsuitable.
Christine is a shy person who is extremely grateful for what little she has. She does not complain. She knows how to ask for toiletries or a healthier diet, and after a while she knows the staff. She does ask. They do not respond. She tells her friends in Swansea. They try to contact the hotel and investigate the situation, but they get nowhere.
August – Christine has been moved to Bristol to another hotel.
September – Christine is still waiting to be decently housed.
Please note that in order to protect identities and ensure confidentiality, the names of people and organisations have not been given here.