The Tragic death of 5 year old Mohammed Munib Majeedi from Afghanistan.
Some questions for the Home Office to answer.
John Grayson, Researcher SYMAAG (South Yorkshire Migration Asylum Action Group)
The death of young Mohammed from a fall from a window at the Metropolitan Hotel in Sheffield on Wednesday 18 August has shocked migrant rights groups in the city and SYMAAG sends its sincere condolences to Mohammed’s family.
The hotel has been used over the past year by the Mears group to house people in the asylum system waiting to be allocated shared asylum housing throughout Yorkshire and the North East. Volunteers from SYMAAG and other groups have visited the hotel to help support residents. When I spoke to people there some months ago everyone I met was a single man and they told me that there were no families in the hotel.
Yesterday I saw a picture allegedly taken by one of the residents showing a room window in the hotel with no safety bars or restricted opening, clearly dangerous for young curious children.
So why has the Home Office used this accommodation to house refugee families and children?
The Home Secretary has in interviews over the past few days suggested that the relocation scheme for Afghanis who worked with British authorities is a resettlement programme similar to the Syrian resettlement scheme.
Sheffield has a long history of delivering such projects and there is an existing framework with the Refugee Council and the council and volunteers. Why didn’t the Home Office provide emergency resources to mobilise this potential team of specialist support workers who have provided temporary, safe and then long term housing in the city over the years?
A cruel and dysfunctional asylum system
For asylum seekers coming to the UK from Afghanistan and other countries, the Conservative government has created a cruel hostile environment. The Home Office provides unsuitable asylum accommodation including hotels, disused barracks, and slum housing. In December 2020 The Guardian reported that 29 people had died in Home Office accommodation that year, ‘five times as many as lost their lives on perilous Channel crossings’.
The Refugee Council has discovered that there were 33,000 people, at the end of 2020 who had waited over a year for their asylum claim to be processed or even to get an interview. There were 7000 children amongst this number. There are certainly Afghani people and families amongst this number who have also fled the Taliban.
In the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill currently before Parliament desperate people fleeing the Taliban and arriving by boats across the Channel will be regarded as ‘illegals’, given only temporary sanctuary and detained in centres like old army barracks miles away from towns or cities. These Afghanis will not be ‘resettled’ and after 18 months could be deported, punished because the British government has refused to provide safe routes for refugees (any refugees) to claim their rights to asylum in the UK.
*Additional information 23 August: It has become clear that the Home Office bear full and direct responsibility for using the hotel to house families and children and that Mohammed Munib Majeedi’s family and others were placed there despite dangerous and unsuitable conditions at this hotel