Home Office did not carry out safety checks on hotel where Afghan boy died

MPs call for inquiry into suitability of Sheffield hotel where guests had raised concern about safety of windows

The Home Office did not carry out any safety checks on the hotel where a five-year-old Afghan boy fell to his death, the Guardian has learned, amid calls for an independent inquiry into the suitability of his accommodation.

Mohammed Munib Majeedi died on Wednesday after falling out of a ninth-floor window at the OYO Metropolitan hotel in Sheffield city centre. He and his family had been placed in the hotel by the Home Office as part of a scheme to relocate Afghans who had helped the British embassy or army in Afghanistan.

The hotel had previously been used to house asylum seekers by the government contractor Mears, but the firm stopped using it because of fire safety concerns, a Home Office source confirmed on Friday.

Asylum seekers were moved out of the hotel last year as “additional fire safety requirements meant that other accommodation provided better value for money”, the source said. They added: “Given the need for additional accommodation at short notice in the current situation, the hotel has been contracted again with additional fire safety mitigations in place.”

The Home Office did not carry out its own health and safety assessment, instead relying on the hotel’s own checks, the Guardian was told.

The department source also said no safety concerns were raised with the Home Office regarding the windows, despite previous guests complaining on the hotel’s Facebook page in 2019 that the windows could open “so wide I was scared my children would fall out”.

The admissions came as Sheffield’s Labour MPs joined the Refugee Council in calling for an independent review into the circumstances surrounding the boy’s death, in order to establish how vulnerable families came to be placed in the hotel.

Describing Mohammed’s death as an “unimaginable tragedy”, the MPs, including Sheffield Central’s Paul Blomfield, said: “Lessons must be learned from this tragedy so it is never repeated. The Home Office have a duty of care for all those who they resettle under their programmes.”

Deborah Coles, the director of the charity Inquest, has called for a wide-ranging inquiry known as an article 2 inquest to be held along with an independent inquiry. She said: “That a family can seek safety and protection in the UK and their child die in such a shocking way is a consequence of the hostile environment and the increasing use of inappropriate accommodation for asylum seekers.”

John Grayson, a researcher at the South Yorkshire Migration Asylum Action group, said volunteers had visited the hotel last year to support asylum seekers. “When I spoke to people there some months ago, everyone I met was a single man and they told me that there were no families in the hotel,” he said. “Yesterday I saw a picture allegedly taken by one of the residents showing a room window in the hotel with no safety bars or restricted opening, clearly dangerous for young, curious children.”

He queried why the Home Office had put families with children there, and said the case raised wider questions about why it had not sought local groups’ help to accommodate the new arrivals.

The Home Office declined to respond to calls for an independent inquiry, saying in a statement: “We are extremely saddened by the tragic death of a child at a hotel in Sheffield. The police are providing support to the family while the investigation continues and we are providing accommodation and support. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that those we are relocating from Afghanistan are appropriately accommodated and supported and we are working hard with local authorities to deliver this.”

The Health and Safety Executive said it would not be investigating the incident as it was not part of its remit.

Contributors

Helen Pidd and Diane Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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