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Asylum seekers sexually harassed in London hotels

Thousands living in unsafe conditions with staff being paid below minimum wage, investigation reveals

Anadolu Agency WORLD
Published February 21,2021

Asylum seekers being housed in government accommodation have faced sexual harassment, intimidation and been unlawfully threatened, a new investigation revealed on Sunday.

The investigation by ITV News and The Observer also disclosed that the staff working at the hotels are paid even below the minimum wage of £6.45 ($9) meant for those over 18 (£8.20 for ages 21-24, and £8.72 for 25 and above).

It said that asylum seekers, who receive £5 a week from the government, have been threatened by police and contract workers not to leave the facilities, which have been described to be in poor state.

"Staff use the master key to enter my room and call the women unpleasant names. The unwelcome sexual behavior and invasion of privacy makes me feel uncomfortable," according to a female victim's testimony.

"We have received allegations that young women are being exploited. This is deeply concerning as these vulnerable women must be protected from harm," said Maddie Harris of the Human Rights Network, an organization that documents violations against asylum seekers.

"The Home Office must immediately investigate these allegations and ensure that asylum seekers whom they have a statutory responsibility to protect are safeguarded from harm."

Meanwhile, the Home Office has been urged to investigate these allegations and take responsibility. "The Home Office has to make sure the systems they put in place... are properly working and that there are proper checks and safeguards in place," Labour Party's Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, said. "At the moment we are not seeing that."

The committee is responsible for scrutinizing the work of the Home Office and its associated bodies. It examines the government policy, spending and law in areas including immigration.

Hotel staff employed by government contractors work 12 hour shifts for six days a week, and earn as little as £5.77 an hour.

The hotels are run by the Stay Belvedere Hotels Ltd group, which is responsible for housing asylum seekers in temporary accommodation in around 50 hotels and hostels in the capital London and south of England.