The stabbings in Park Inn hotel in Glasgow on Friday are an awful outcome of a system which breaks many of the people caught in its vice. Of course not everyone put through the savagery of the Home Office’s asylum seeker system and locked away in a hotel room for months goes on to commit a horrendous violent attack, but when you create the conditions for severe mental illness to thrive among extremely vulnerable people, many of whom have suffered trauma after fleeing their homeland, then the chances something like this could happen are heightened significantly.
A hotel guest is reported to have passed on concerns about Badreddin Abedlla Adam’s mental health the night before the incident. Badreddin had told him “everyone here in the hotel is against me”. He had also complained about being unable to sleep due to noise coming into his room. John Taylor, the Chief Executive of Mears Group, the UK Government contractor for asylum seekers in Glasgow which decided to move them from homes into hotels during the pandemic, has admitted that no formal vulnerability assessment was made before making that decision. The company had announced a phased return to individual accommodation on Thursday, which begs the question as to why the decision was made to move them into hotels in the first place. Was it not obvious that the problems charities and campaign groups have been consistently talking about for months – further loss of an already extremely limited autonomy; inability to access their lawyers and support networks; no support payments – would exacerbate stress on the lives of the 380 asylum seekers forced to endure this upheaval? The suicide of Adnan Olbeh in another Glasgow hotel on 5 May should have been a wake-up call if one was needed. It’s a tragedy that it clearly wasn’t.
One asylum seeker involved in the No Evictions network, which has been campaigning for housing rights for asylum seekers in Glasgow since the former contractor Serco sought to evict them via lock-changes in 2018, who has been living in the hotel, said after the incident: “You come seeking refuge in the UK, dreaming of a better future for our children, we want peace and respect. We have all left places where it is dangerous to live but when we are here the Home Office say we are always lying. We are treated like prisoners or even worse.
“We do not know when we will be moved to a different place or if we will be put in detention or if we will be sent away back to a dangerous place. Everyone should be able to live a life with respect, here we are not treated with respect by the Home Office, we know the UK Government does not want us to be here but we have a right to stay.”
No Evictions Glasgow say their demands remain the same as before the stabbings: “An improvement to the living conditions, reinstatement of financial support, and an immediate return to safe, own-door housing”.
The likes of Nigel Farage are trying to exploit the situation to resuscitate their anti immigrant and refugees agenda. We have had the far-right on the streets of Glasgow ten days ago attacking a No Evictions Glasgow protest. If it wasn’t enough that the Home Office is determined to make people suffer just because of who they are, the racists seek to ramp up hatred towards them. As we enter an age of climate refugees, we must win the argument that it is in everyone’s interest for all refugees on the UK’s shores to be welcomed here, and allowed to live lives of autonomy, dignity and respect, where they can contribute their skills to society just like any other citizen. An injury to one is an injury to all – just as none of us are safe from Covid-19 if the virus is not eradicated, none of us are truly safe unless everyone can live their lives in peace, in a secure home and with good mental health. That’s the urgent lesson that must be learnt from this awful episode.
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