UK refugees facing worse conditions than in Calais
This week we had some great news! A refugee who volunteered with us in France arrived in the UK. I went to visit him in Manchester but it was bittersweet. I was so happy to see him finally here – he is from Sudan and has suffered a lot – but honestly, now his situation is not great.
Three of them arrived together and one did not have any shoes. Another was wearing a T-shirt only, with no jumper or jacket. I was so shocked to see this in the UK! Of course we are used to it in Calais, but somehow I thought things would be better here.
My second shock was when I asked what they needed and the first thing they said was ‘food’. I’ve heard this so much recently. From refugees in Southport, the Wirral, Glasgow, London and Leeds. Victims of torture and persecution, starving in the UK.
The hotels are given so little budget to feed them that the food is appalling – across the country there have been major issues, even hunger strikes and protests. My friends from Sudan are so sweet and easygoing. All they wanted was some fresh fruit and salad – they are being given only tinned beans and bread.
I took them food shopping and stocked them all up, and they were so grateful I could have cried. I am going back next week with clothes – I simply cannot see someone without shoes.
But how can this be? Things in the UK should be better for the refugees that make it here, not worse. It’s shameful we are treating people this way.
After the horrendous events in Glasgow last week, a picture has been emerging of the awful conditions in that hotel. At so many hotels all over the country, things are no different.
Since Covid many people have been placed in hotels, but then their paltry allowance of £35/week has been stopped. They can’t afford basic medicines or toiletries. Some of them don’t even have enough clothes. The conditions are little better than in the camps in Calais.
This is a scandal. We are hiding people away and handing over the key to private contractors. We’re neglecting people’s physical and mental health. We’re ignoring their most basic needs. We’re denying them dignity.
Care4Calais is working with some fantastic local groups to provide support – from Hope Church Wirral to Unity Centre – but it should not be left to civil society to take up the slack. We need an urgent review of the way refugees are being housed right across the UK. We should be taking care of their health, providing them the basics – warm, nutritious meals, clothing, security – and, of course, protecting them from Covid.
For people in desperate need, this is surely the least we can do.