The hotel where a five-year-old Afghan refugee fell to his death last week was the subject of a fire enforcement action when the Home Office placed Afghan families there, the Guardian has learned.
Mohammed Munib Majeedi, known as Munib, fell from a ninth-floor window at the Oyo Metropolitan hotel, where he was quarantining with his family after arriving from Afghanistan, last Wednesday.
An enforcement notice for the hotel, issued by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue service, ordered a series of improvement works to be carried out after identifying multiple fire risks at the hotel. The notice is still in place as the works programme has not yet been completed.
The disclosure comes as an inquest was opened and adjourned into the boy’s death at Sheffield coroner’s court.
Concerns raised by the fire service in their enforcement notice report include:
Fire safety risk assessment not suitable and sufficient.
Escape routes and exits could not be used as quickly and safely as possible.
Insufficient evacuation procedures and drills to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger.
Structural and passive fire precautions inadequately maintained.
Fire alarm system inadequately maintained.
According to Home Office sources, the hotel addressed the cladding concerns before it was booked for the Afghan families.
They insisted that all hotels booked by the government must comply with relevant health and safety legislation and provide their latest health and safety risk assessment.
Sheffield city council, which is supporting the boy’s family, is investigating the incident with specialist input from the Health & Safety Executive.
Deborah Coles, the director of the charity Inquest, said: “The news that an enforcement notice was issued by the fire service only reinforces the serious concerns we have about the safety of the hotel accommodation being used and flies in the face of assurances given about it. This tragic and avoidable loss of life must trigger a nationwide review of the safety of the accommodation of this kind which is being used.”
A South Yorkshire fire & rescue service spokesperson said: “An enforcement notice was served on Oyo, the Sheffield Metropolitan, in Blonk Street, on 3 November 2020 following a fire safety audit by South Yorkshire fire & rescue inspecting officers. The enforcement notice remains in place and relates to a number of articles under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. As with all enforcement action we undertake, we are working with the responsible persons to resolve the issues.”
Opening the inquest into the boy’s death on Wednesday, the assistant coroner Tanyka Rawden said emergency services were called to the car park next to the hotel on 18 August after reports Munib had fallen onto the roof from a hotel window above. He was taken to Sheffield Children’s hospital by ambulance but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Rawden offered her “heartfelt condolences” to Munib’s family before adjourning the inquest until 16 November.
Munib’s father worked for Irara, a Sheffield-based nonprofit organisation that helps failed asylum seekers reintegrate into their home country when deported from the UK.
He was Irara’s head of operations in Kabul before moving to work for the British embassy, according to Richard Davenport, the programme director for Irara.
“We worked with the Majeedi family when the father was in Kabul leading our operations to support people rebuilding their lives in Afghanistan. He is a great person who has dedicated his life to helping others,” he said.
Irara liaised with the Home Office to try to get the family resettled in Sheffield so the father could work for the organisation again, he added.
Davenport started a crowdfunding appeal for the Majeedi family, which has so far raised more than £5,000.
The hotel was empty on Wednesday and a security guard said there was no one available to answer questions. Oyo has been approached for comment.
Sheffield’s Labour MPs and the Refugee Council have called for an independent review into the circumstances surrounding Munib’s death, in order to establish how vulnerable families came to be placed in the hotel.