Dozens of child asylum seekers placed in Home Office hotel for adults

Concerns raised after children classified wrongly as adults were assigned to a hotel where a serious stabbing took place last month

At least 40 child asylum seekers were placed in a Home Office hotel designated for adults where one of them was a victim of a serious stabbing last month, the Guardian has learned.

Lawyers and NGOs have repeatedly raised concerns about children being assessed wrongly as adults by the Home Office after arriving in the UK on small boats.

Maddie Harris, of Humans For Rights Network, which works with unaccompanied child asylum seekers, said: “The Home Office continues to neglect its child protection obligations both by continuing to place unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in adult accommodations, but also by moving these children repeatedly from accommodation to accommodation with no regard for their safety or wellbeing.”

The Home Office placed children in the hotel near Heathrow airport both before and after the stabbing of the child asylum seeker, which took place on 22 October.

All were subsequently deemed to be children and taken into care in various different parts of the UK.

A 15-year-old boy was charged in relation to the incident and pleaded guilty to wounding with intent, having an offensive weapon in a public place and possession of cannabis at a hearing at the Old Bailey last week. He will be sentenced on 6 January.

Judge Katz KCwarned him that he was likely to receive a “substantial sentence”.

The stabbing victim was assessed to be a child following the incident and after being discharged from hospital after receiving treatment for his injuries was taken into the care of social services.

Some councils who have been asked to accept both unaccompanied child asylum seekers, single adults and families, say they are struggling to cope with providing accommodation and support for the new arrivals.

Some have launched legal challenges against the Home Office claiming that contractors should be blocked from using large hotels to accommodate asylum seekers becauseit breaches planning laws and harms communities.

Harris said: “A client of ours was moved a total of four times, from hotel to hotel in less than two weeks, causing him huge distress and denying him the safety and care of the local authority who had agreed to accommodate him. This care was delayed due to the number of children this local authority was required to find placements for.”

Renae Mann, director of services at the Refugee Council, said: “We are deeply concerned by this government’s treatment of unaccompanied children who come to the UK in desperate need of safety. It is very troubling so many are being wrongly judged and treated as adults and in turn held in accommodation entirely unsuitable to their needs.

“We know that children have been left stuck in hotels where they are deprived of the care that comes with having a corporate parent, and shockingly in Manston, where appalling conditions have rightly caused public outrage. Children in the asylum system must have access to support and protection, not be passed from pillar to post where they are at real risk of abuse and neglect.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We identify sites for accommodation jointly with our partners based on whether they are safe and available. While we accept that hotels do not provide a long-term solution, they do offer safe, secure and clean accommodation.

“The welfare of asylum seekers is, and always will be, of the utmost importance to us. We work closely with the NHS, local authorities, non-governmental organisations and contractors to ensure that asylum seekers can access the healthcare and support they need.”


Diane Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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