Asylum seekers ‘crammed into 24-bed hostel rooms and forced to share’ despite Covid risk

Around 500 men are believed to be at a hostel in Southwark, south London, despite a local council calling the facility unsafe for accommodating homeless people.

Residents of the hostel have expressed their fears

Asylum seekers are being placed in hostels and forced to share rooms filled with dozens of beds despite the rise of Covid, reports say.

Around 500 men are believed to be at a hostel in Southwark, south London, despite a local council labeling the establishment unsafe for accommodating homeless people.

This is believed to be due to an inability to maintain proper social distancing in light of the rise of the coronavirus.

It was reported that due to a Covid outbreak at the facility in recent weeks, a number of people had been infected.

It comes after new figures revealed the number of people who made the dangerous journey across the English Channel in small boats this year had doubled the total for the whole of 2020.

Hundreds of people are said to be staying at the hostel

At least 669 people managed to reach the UK on Sunday, taking the total for the year to at least 17,085, according to official data.

Small boat arrivals in 2021 are now more than double the figure for all of 2020, when 8,417 people crossed the Strait of Dover.

The Independent reports that residents of the London facility had spoken of incidents where their housemates had tested positive for Covid but were unable to self-isolate until several days later.

It was claimed that more than 15 people slept in some rooms.

Southwark Council were reportedly not consulted on the plan to move people into the hostel and wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel warning it posed ‘immediate risks’ to applicants asylum and local residents.

Home Secretary Priti Patel


POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The council reportedly demanded “urgent action” to keep residents safe, saying an outbreak was “entirely foreseeable” given the overcrowding.

One resident, an Ethiopian national, told the publication: “We are worried. I don’t feel safe. There are a lot of people in a small space.

“Everyone complained, but they didn’t do anything. Staff say there is nothing they can do and we need to speak to the Home Office, but the Home Office does not answer our calls.

Another resident, from Eritrea, said two weeks ago that a roommate tested positive for Covid but stayed in the shared room.

He said: ‘I immediately informed the hostel staff that he needed to self-isolate, but they didn’t tell him. The guy was sick for three days. We didn’t have masks at that time. He got very sick and one night I had to call an ambulance. It wasn’t until five days later that he was moved to another room.”

A spokesperson for Migrant Help, contracted to support asylum seekers, said it was working ‘hard to support as many asylum seekers as possible’ and its average wait time in August was 13 minutes .

A Home Office spokesperson reportedly said all of its accommodation “must comply with relevant health and safety legislation and provide their latest health and safety risk assessment”.

They added: “Due to unprecedented demand, we have had to use temporary accommodation to manage asylum applications and we encourage all local authorities to support and work with us.

“We take the welfare of asylum seekers very seriously and work closely with our providers, Public Health England and other relevant authorities to ensure that all medical advice is followed closely and that people self-isolate if necessary.”

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Linda G. Ibarra