Asylum seekers in hotels are left without access to proper medical care, workers say, leaving torture injuries untreated, children suffering from weight loss and pregnant women without maternity services.
The staff said the independent of extreme cases, such as children who had multiple teeth knocked out due to lack of dental care, as well as adults suffering from PTSD and suicidal thoughts.
The Refugee Council called the cases “appalling” and warned that “long and harrowing stays in hotel accommodation are increasingly harmful to people’s health”, while the British Medical Association (BMA) warned that there is a “growing body of evidence” on the impact of inadequate housing conditions.
More than 37,000 asylum seekers are staying in hotels, the Home Office says, with 10,276 adults and children waiting for more than three years for a decision on your claim.
Many asylum seekers are accommodated in hotels by Home Office contractors without anyone notifying local authorities or support services. This means it can take months before people are referred to GPs or hospitals for any necessary medical treatment.
The number staying in these hotels has increased dramatically in the last three years. There were 1,490 asylum seekers in this type of accommodation at the end of 2019, but this increased to 26,380 at the end of 2021, and 10% of them were children.
All asylum seekers, regardless of accommodation, should have the same access to free NHS services in the same way as British citizens and other permanent residents.
However, with a weekly allowance of just £8.24, many cannot even afford the bus fare to get to A&E or basic medicines like paracetamol. Language barriers are also a problem, with many GPs lacking adequate translation services. Some hotels also do not provide residents with information on how to connect with local services.
The criticism comes after it was revealed that dozens of migrants suspected of diphtheria had been transferred from the Manston processing center in Kent to hotels across the country. Fifty migrants tested positive for toxigenic C. diphtheriae from January 1 to November 25 this year, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.
The doctors have now said the independent about the complex health needs they encounter and say that hotel accommodation can make them worse.
Examples include children with mouth abscesses from lack of dental care and a person who developed a bone infection from an untreated gunshot wound to the leg.
The Home Office also frequently transfers people between hotels in different parts of the country, further exacerbating its problems with access to healthcare, a new report from charity MedAct found.
A spokesman for the department insisted that asylum seekers “have access to health and social care services from the point of arrival in the UK.”
But Dr Jan Wise, chair of the BMA’s medical ethics committee, said: “Instead of providing safe treatment, the government’s solution is to pile trauma upon trauma, forcing people into inadequate and increasingly overcrowded facilities.” .
“The government must urgently improve the living conditions of migrants and asylum seekers and ensure they are adequately protected and have essential access to healthcare.
“However, the chronic underinvestment in the NHS undoubtedly plays a role in these delays, which is why the government must do everything possible to adequately staff the system.”
Mark Davies, head of campaigns for the Refugee Council, said: “We are concerned by these absolutely appalling cases, but sadly to some extent unsurprised.
“We have long raised concerns about asylum seekers trapped for long periods within the confines of hotel rooms where they suffer from very limited access to the vital services they need, including health advice and ongoing support. .
“Our own research clearly shows that long and agonizing stays in hotel accommodation are increasingly detrimental to people’s health and well-being, causing depression and even suicidal ideation among many, including children.”
Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP and Home Affairs spokesman, said the Home Office “has no control over our asylum system.”
“This national shame falls on the shoulders of Suella Braverman,” he said. “The Prime Minister must commit to a full-scale national inquiry into the way this Conservative government has treated these vulnerable people.”
Last week, Ms Braverman admitted that the current rate of processing asylum claims was too low and the system too slow, with caseworkers currently only making one decision per week on average.
But the Home Office said it is offering help to people coming to the UK as their claims are resolved.
A spokesperson said: “We provide otherwise destitute asylum seekers with safe, free and fully furnished accommodation, three meals a day and a weekly allowance.
“Asylum seekers have access to health and social care services from the point of arrival in the UK and we work closely with the NHS, local authorities and contractors to ensure that asylum seekers can access the support they they need.
“This includes ensuring there is support for pregnant women and those with newborns.”
Medical staff say they often see patients with horrific war wounds, needing specialized treatment that is difficult to access.
“Torture wounds that have never been treated: some people have been electrocuted in their private parts and have trouble urinating,” the GP continued. “They have had head injuries, so they have permanent headaches. One had osteomyelitis due to a gunshot wound to the leg.
“One guy had his [diabetes] they took his medication when he arrived in the country and he was very sick. I told him that he had to go to the hospital and he asked me: ‘How far is it?’ Because he had to walk, it was about five miles. This is your reality.”
Mental health problems are also widespread, the doctors said.
Dr Frank Arnold, an independent physician and member of MedAct, said: “There is also a large case of traumatization, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among hotel residents.”
One nurse, who works in six hotels in London that house between 150 and 350 people each, said: “Everyone is depressed or anxious or has PTSD.”
“You are so stuck. You can’t say ‘this is going to get better’ because you have no idea. There are people who have been waiting two years for an asylum decision,” she said.
Asylum seekers can only eat what the hotel offers, raising widespread concerns about the quality of the food, doctors said.
A MedAct report found that food was a recurring problem affecting health, with complaints including children losing weight or skipping breakfast.
In one case, a woman was unable to eat hotel food because she had gallstones.
interrupted maternity care
Asylum seekers are also transferred at short notice, which can disrupt their medical care.
“I had a lady who was a cancer patient, who had all her cancer treatment in one hospital. She was transferred to the other side of London, so she had to start all her services again,” the London nurse said.
A 24-week pregnant woman had not had access to maternity services before her team began visiting the hotel, she said.
David Gardner, a lawyer for No 5 chambers, said he regularly supports pregnant women who try to challenge the Home Office about the adequacy of their accommodation.
“Requiring a pregnant woman to stay in a single room in a hotel for the entire period of her pregnancy is grossly inappropriate,” he said.
Jane Henson, who supports a number of hotels in Nottingham, said the Home Office often places accommodation in areas away from supporting services.
She said pregnant asylum seekers in her area received good support, but added: “The worst thing is the time they are there. They’re stuck in their rooms, families together, and it’s hell.”