Refugee activists have called for an independent inquiry into the decision to move asylum seekers from their flats in Glasgow into hotels, after a man died suddenly at a guest house.
Adnan, a 30-year-old Syrian, who had been in the city for about six months and was claiming asylum, was found dead in his room at McLay’s Guest House on Tuesday 5 May.
He had been living in the hotel for about a month, after accommodation provider, Mears Group, moved him from the flat where he had been living alone as part of its Covid-19 response.
It is understood he may have died after a drug overdose. A postmortem will be carried out to confirm the cause of death.
Hundreds of asylum seekers across the city have been moved to hotels by Mears since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. Their asylum support of £35 per week has stopped and instead they are provided with three meals per day in communal dining rooms, where it is claimed social distancing is difficult.
They have no money for essentials such as toiletries, phone top-ups or snacks. After The Ferret reported that shared coffee and tea facilities put people at risk of being infected by Covid-19, they were taken away in at least one dining room. No in-room alternatives have been offered.
Those supporting asylum seekers in hotels have said the situation is having a toll on their emotional well-being and are concerned about the risks that the situation poses to their physical health during the pandemic.
The Ferret spoke to a friend of Adnan, who is also staying at McLay’s Guest House. He said his friend had addiction issues, was taking street Valium, and had become increasingly distressed during his time at the hotel.
It is claimed that he had experienced past trauma including abuse in jail and his friend said he had been expressing suicidal thoughts in the weeks leading up to his death.
The day before he died, his friend said he was having flashbacks and had asked to see a GP.
Pinar Aksu, an activist who also works for Maryhill Integration Network, said: “There needs to be an independent inquiry into this death. If people don’t get the help they need then we risk more people dying.
“We also need to stop moving people into hotels. It seems very clear to me that this is being done so that Mears and the Home Office can protect profit. If they care about people’s welfare then why are they moving people out of their flats in the midst of a pandemic to places where they have to eat meals in shared areas and share bathrooms?
“This tragedy is evidence of the damage caused by the asylum system. Moving people to hotels like this is only causing more stress and isolation. It has to stop.”
A spokesperson from the No Evictions Network said: “We are deeply saddened and utterly outraged by the lack of humanity, dignity, or consideration shown to asylum seekers by Mears, the Home Office, and the UK government. They have failed to comply with basic duties and to treat human life with respect.
“Individuals, racist policies and systems are directly to blame for this man’s death. This situation was entirely avoidable. Despite this, pleas for change made by both individuals and organisations have been ignored and a young life has now been lost.”
At oral evidence given to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into Home Office work on Covid-19, Mears Group said it had taken the decision “on balance” to move people in flats into hotels with meals provided because it meant staff would not need to deliver cash to them. It was also claimed they would have better access to health services.
A spokesman for Mears Group said: “We are deeply sad to confirm the death of an asylum-seeker who had been in Mears supported accommodation. The cause of death has not been determined.”
A Police Scotland spokesperson said the death is being treated as “unexplained” and that a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.
The Ferret tried to contact McLay’s Guest House for comment but was not able to speak to management. The Home Office has also been contacted.
Photo thanks to Google.