An asylum seeker, who cannot be named, has launched judicial review proceedings against the home secretary, Priti Patel, challenging a 23 hour a day curfew, where asylum seekers are being subjected to false imprisonment and a 23 hour a day curfew. He says there is no legal basis for the restrictions, which amount o false imprisonment and deprivation of liberty in breach of the European convention on human rights. The high court has given the Home Office until 4pm on Friday to file a response to the claim.
Solicitors from Matthew Gold, who are bringing the legal challenge, say they are aware of at least 11 hotels imposing this type of restriction, including the one the asylum seeker bringing the case is in. Ten are in London.
The asylum seeker in the case was moved into a hotel in mid-January. He says he has been told that if he is absent for more than an hour a day doing exercise and essential food shopping he will be reported to the Home Office, and that it could damage his right to accommodation and his asylum claim. Security guards at the door ask questions about where the asylum seekers are going, enforce a rule that they sign in and out, and check their bags when they return.
Coronavirus lockdown rules do not restrict the amount of time each day that people can leave home for to do exercise or essential shopping.
The asylum seeker bringing the case fled persecution, which included state detention and abuse. He says the enforcement of the curfew is a traumatic reminder of what happened to him in his home country.
Many hotels have been targeted by supporters of the far right who claim asylum seekers are living a life of luxury there.
Reading Healthwatch published a report examining the situation of 80 asylum seekers accommodated in a hotel in the city. It found that some had experienced unsafe breaks in medication such as insulin after being moved to the area from other parts of the UK.
Some of the asylum seekers at the hotel recently began a hunger strike in protest at conditions, including food which they said was inedible. Much of the asylum seeker hotel accommodation is in London. A recent internal report from a London council said that 6,212 asylum seekers were accommodated in 54 hotels in 23 boroughs.
The council inspected some of the hotels in its area and raised concerns regarding the size of the rooms and the quality and choice of food, especially for families. In one hotel inspectors found a shortage of water, toiletries, poor food, poor hygiene and mice in the rooms.
The charity West London Welcome has also highlighted the poor food received by asylum seekers in hotels.
Rachel Etheridge, of Matthew Gold solicitors, said: “There is no lawful or moral justification for imposing restrictions on the lives of asylum seekers which are more stringent than those being applied to the wider population”.
“We call on the secretary of state to stop her accommodation providers from continuing with this practice which is negatively impacting on the many asylum seekers who have come to this country seeking sanctuary from state abuse with an expectation of fair treatment”.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government has a statutory duty to provide accommodation to asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute – the accommodation is safe and secure and they receive three nutritious meals a day – this is all funded by the taxpayer”.
“Asylum seekers in hotel accommodation are not detained, they are free to come and go as they please, but of course, like everyone else in the UK, they must comply with the Covid restrictions”.