THE UK Government has been accused of adopting a “tone-deaf” response to the needs of asylum seekers housed in hotels.
SNP MP Stewart McDonald questioned whether Chris Philp could have lived in one hotel room for several weeks during the coronavirus lockdown after the Home Office minister defended the support given to asylum seekers.
Philp earlier told the Commons his thoughts are with the victims of the “appalling knife attack” in Glasgow in which six people were injured, including a police officer.
READ MORE: Glasgow hotel attack: ‘Warning signs were missed by authorities’
Badreddin Abadlla Adam, 28, from Sudan, was shot dead by officers after the incident at the Park Inn Hotel on West George Street last Friday.
I’m afraid to say the Government has been posted missing on the issue of asylum accommodation in Glasgow
Answering an urgent question, Philp said: “The UK has a statutory obligation to provide destitute asylum seekers with support while their case is being considered.
“While their cases are being considered, asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, are provided with free accommodation, the utilities are paid for, council tax is paid for, free healthcare on the NHS is available, free education is available for those with children and there is a cash allowance to cover other essential living needs – recently increased by 5%, considerably more than inflation.”
Philp added there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in respect of asylum seekers staying in hotels.
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Work is also ongoing to move people from hotels into “more permanent accommodation”, Philp said, before he confirmed talks between Home Office officials and Glasgow City Council on this issue took place on Monday afternoon.
McDonald told the Commons: “Those of us who represent Glasgow are utterly horrified at the tone-deaf remarks from the minister when he talked about how lovely these hotel rooms are.
“I ask him: could he stay in one hotel room for several weeks during lockdown?
“I’m afraid to say the Government has been posted missing on the issue of asylum accommodation in Glasgow, which many of us in the city have been jumping up and down about for several months.”
He called for an “intensive” engagement strategy from the Government to work with the council, health service and charities.
Philp said he would be meeting Glasgow MPs next week and the city council leader “shortly”.
They did not consult, as they are obliged to do, Glasgow City Council or anyone else
The SNP’s Alison Thewliss MP earlier said there have been two deaths in hotel accommodation in central Glasgow since the start of lockdown.
The Glasgow Central MP said: “At the start of lockdown the Home Office contractor Mears moved 321 people from initial accommodation in serviced flats across Glasgow into city centre hotels.
“They did not consult, as they are obliged to do, Glasgow City Council or anyone else.”
Thewliss added that this included “pregnant women, trafficked women, torture victims, family groups and vulnerable people”.
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Thewliss said: “Will (Philp) immediately reinstate the meagre £5.37 a day to allow asylum seekers a small but important degree of dignity?”
For Labour, shadow immigration minister Holly Lynch said: “We are sympathetic to the speed with which additional accommodation has had to be sought for asylum seekers at different stages of the asylum process in the interests of public health going into lockdown.
“However this tragic attack is an important reminder of why it’s vital to deliver the correct and balanced approach to housing and related support services for asylum seekers, as well as supporting the wider community.”
SNP MP Patrick Grady said the city is united in giving the warmest of welcomes to those who choose to make their home there, before criticising the approach from Westminster.
He said: “What asylum seekers have experienced during this pandemic is the hostile environment at its absolute worst.”
Philp countered: “I don’t for one moment accept [the] suggestion that there has been anything hostile in the environment extended to asylum seekers.”