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Thousands of asylum-seeking children in London hotels, data shows

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By Jessica UreBBC News

BBC 'Ayesha' lives in one room with her husband and her toddlerBBC

Ayesha lives in one room with her husband and her toddler

  • Home Office data shows more than 3,000 children living in hotels in London, the BBC has found
  • Of those, 64 have been living in hotels for more than two years
  • BBC London went to speak to two parents living in a west London hotel
  • The Conservative Party says it has a clear plan to stop small boat crossings

It is being called the “immigration election” as parties across the political spectrum fight key battlegrounds on promises of tackling migration issues.

In London, thousands of asylum-seekers, fleeing war and persecution in other countries, are waiting for decisions on their asylum cases from the Home Office.

BBC London can reveal 3,045 accompanied asylum-seeking children are currently living in hotels in the capital, according to Home Office data revealed in a freedom of information (FOI) request. Of those, 64 have been living in hotels for more two years.

The Conservative Party said on behalf of the Home Office, in response to the findings, that it had a clear plan in place to “stop the boats”. Labour said it would hire more than 1,000 new caseworkers to speed up asylum claims while the Liberal Democrats said they would establish a new dedicated asylum unit.

'Carolina'

Carolina has been living in a hotel for two years

Carolina, not her real name, aged 29, has been living in a hotel room with her husband and two children for the past two years. She said they were forced to leave their home country of Honduras following threats from gangs.

“I was pregnant there and I was very close to losing my daughter, my baby, and we were like: ‘No. We need to do something. We need to go out,'” she told BBC London.

“I know that a lot of people are in the same situation. I met one single mum with two babies; she was pregnant in the hotel, she delivered at the hotel, she recovered at the hotel, like me. Now she’s in another hotel waiting for a house but she is alone. I know that her life is not easy.”

Although hotels used by the government to house asylum seekers can be found across the capital, they are particularly concentrated in west London.

That’s where Aysha, also not her real name and also aged 29, has been living in a hotel since fleeing Afghanistan in 2021. She is now three months pregnant and living in one room with her toddler son and husband.

“Back home before the Taliban I had a good life. I am a dentist so I could provide for my child, I could provide for my family,” she said.

‘No place to play’

“Life in the hotel is really difficult to bring up children, it’s really, really difficult. First thing you need is open air, there is no place to play, no open air, we are really limited in a little room.

“There is no opportunity for me to cook well. I am pregnant; it’s not good to not have the food that I need, that my child needs. It’s crowded.”

Despite the concerns for her child and unborn baby, Aysha also expresses her gratitude at being allowed the opportunity to apply for asylum, and hopes her application will be granted eventually.

Leyla Williams, deputy director of charity West London Welcome

Leyla Williams, deputy director of charity West London Welcome, says many asylum seekers are “struggling with digestion” due to hotel food

Leyla Williams, deputy director of charity West London Welcome says “people present with a whole range of really worrying issues when living in hotels”.

“Very often, they’re struggling with digestion, eating the Home Office hotel food that they’re given.

“There’s a lot of issues around nutrition, and that hotel food won’t cater properly for their nutritional needs, particularly pregnant women and parents with young children and babies.”

The hotel rooms are also not equipped with cooking facilities, and people awaiting news of their asylum claims are not permitted to work in the UK. Therefore, the Home Office provides food for families as they wait.

“Some parents and their children will end up in hospital, because over time that food is just not good enough,” says Ms Williams.

Food photographed in the hotels where 'Carolina' and 'Ayesha' stayed

Food photographed in the hotels where Carolina and Ayesha stayed

Asked what they might do to improve the situation of asylum-seekers spending long periods of time in hotels, the Labour Party said: “The asylum backlog has soared, while asylum decisions have collapsed. The result is taxpayers spending £8m a day on hotels, while thousands of people are stuck in limbo.

“Labour has a plan to speed up asylum decisions and end extortionate hotel use by hiring over 1,000 new caseworkers to improve productivity.”

The Liberal Democrats said: “We would end the asylum backlog by establishing a new, dedicated unit to make decisions quickly and fairly, while introducing a service standard of three months for all but the most complex asylum claims to be processed.”

The Conservatives, who commented on behalf of the Home Office in response to the findings of the FOI request, said they had a plan in place to “stop the boats” and that through their policies, they had driven down small boats crossings by over a third last year.

A spokesperson said: “Only the Conservatives have a clear plan to stop the boats and our plan is working, driving down small boats crossings by over a third last year.”

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