THE number of asylum seekers in Glasgow hotels is going up seven months after the Park Inn attack – and the Home Office says Scottish councils are to blame.

Immigration Minister Chris Philp has told the Sunday National the continued use of what some campaigners have called “hotel detention” continues in Scotland because his department’s hands are tied.

There was outrage last summer when the use of Glasgow hotels for around 350 asylum seekers hit the headlines in relation to two separate tragedies – the death of Syrian torture survivor Adnan Olbeh in his room and the Park Inn attack.

Six people including a police officer were wounded in the stabbing by asylum seeker Badreddin Abadlla Adam, who was shot dead at the scene. Those living with him said he showd worrying signs of psychological distress.

There were serious concerns then about the mental health and welfare of the men and women kept for months in rooms after being moved from private flats by Home Office contractor Mears.

It said the shift would provide protection from coronavirus but those affected complained of lost privacy, £35-a-week support payments and independence.

The National:

The Home Office announced an evaluation of the support given to asylum seekers, including people fleeing violence and trauma, while Mears said it would “do all in its power to end the use of hotels and ensure everyone has a home of their own”.

But while numbers fell to around 250 in August, the Sunday National has learned that this is now back up at more than than 300.

Unlike the national Syrian refugee programme, Glasgow is the only council in Scotland to accept asylum seekers.

Last year the Sunday National revealed it had agreed a “temporary pause” on new arrivals with the Home Office to “ease pressure on the system” and allow housing to be found by Mears for those in hotels.

Under the terms of that agreement, the only newly-arrived women, children and families who had made their own ways to the city were to be allowed to stay as their asylum bids were processed, with men moved elsewhere across the border.

Tougher Covid restrictions have prevented those transfers and Mears says this, together with the lack of available accommodation in Glasgow, has driven up the number of those in hotels.

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Both the company and the council say they are working to find solutions, but Mears is tied to contractual agreements and the council can only act within its powers.

The Scottish Refugee Council says the Home Office must act but Philp – whose department controls immigration and asylum – says it's up to Scottish councils to solve the problem.

He said: “We have a legal obligation to provide destitute asylum seekers with accommodation but can only use dispersed accommodation with the agreement of local authorities.

“We have asked other local authorities in Scotland to become dispersal areas to reduce our reliance on hotels and the strain on Glasgow, but they have refused. We encourage them to think again.”

The comments follow repeated calls by Glasgow and other councils to provide the necessary funding to cover asylum seeker dispersal.

Councillor Kelly Parry of council umbrella body Cosla stated: “Scottish local authorities have a very strong track record of supporting the UK’s humanitarian efforts, with all 32 involved in the resettlement of refugees from Syria.

The National:

“Unfortunately, while resettlement comes with funding to support the crucial role that councils play, there is no funding whatsoever to support asylum dispersal.

“As I have repeatedly highlighted to successive UK Government ministers, this position is entirely unsustainable. This needs to change so that local authorities are adequately funded to support asylum dispersal.”

The news comes as the Home Office begins to move asylum seekers out of a military camp in Wales, ending months of protests over conditions there.

Sabir Zazai, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “Despite everything that our community in Glasgow went through in summer 2020, there are still around 300 people staying in hotel rooms across the city, with no long-term solutions in place.

“People cannot rebuild their lives from hotel rooms and cramped barracks, with no right to work and little to no money, not least in the middle of a pandemic.

“We urge the Home Office to grant temporary leave-to-remain to everyone with insecure status, to give everyone the fairest chance of getting through this ongoing crisis. Nobody is safe until we are all safe.”

The National:

Mears said: “We are working to find accommodation but availability in the market is currently very limited and we can only procure accommodation in the areas of the city assessed as suitable by Glasgow City Council.

“We support and understand the City’s view on ensuring accommodation is appropriate and sustainable and we continue to work extremely closely with them.”

Glasgow City Council added: “We do not want asylum seekers to be in hotel accommodation any longer than needs be.

“The pandemic and associated lockdown restrictions are causing challenges in housing supply, and our overarching aim is to keep everyone as safe as possible.

“We continue to work with partners to offer support during these challenging times including moving people to appropriate housing solutions as quickly as possible.”

READ MORE: Glasgow 'ready to fight' Home Office over winter asylum seeker evictions, council says

Mears, which won the lucrative asylum housing contract following a lock-out evictions row under its previous holder Serco, came under sustained criticism for moving people in Glasgow into shared accommodation.

Street protests were held and campaigners leaked images of food served to asylum seekers.

The Sunday National has learned that the company is now working with an asylum seeker and refugee forum to improve its performance. Members of that forum, chaired by award-winning Afghan activist Abdul Bostani, include representatives of diverse communities in Glasgow.

Under its recommendations, the company put staff through diversity training, changed hotel menus and funds education and other programmes working in the city's minority communities.

Donations have been made to the Number One Baby and Family Support Service along with numerous other groups.

Bostani said: “Everything we have asked Mears to do, they have done.

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“The Home Office now needs to invest in the resources needed to look after people who are victims and who need safety and security and respond to them properly. Not to do that is not right.

“Life in these hotels is extremely difficult. You can stand one night, one week in a hotel but months and months without a decision will have an extreme effect. They need to act now.”

One asylum seeker who spent five months in a hotel before being moved into a flat told the Sunday National the shift made an immediate difference to his wellbeing: “It's more privacy, away from the pressure of being around people who are under pressure. It's much better.”