500 rape alarms given to female asylum seekers at 'dangerous' Home Office-run hotels

Hope has been waiting for three years to have her asylum claim processed, as Social Affairs Correspondent Sarah Corker reports

Overflowing bins with rotting food. Rubbish piled high in hotel corridors. Mouldy, damp rooms with water constantly dripping near a child’s cot.

These are all Home Office-run hotels across the UK, where asylum seekers say they are living in dirty and at times unsafe accommodation.

The conditions are so bad at one hotel in Greater Manchester that there have been reports of a scabies outbreak. Meanwhile, in London, one charity says it is distributing 500 rape alarms after a series of sexual abuse claims from women living in these hotels.

Human rights groups have shared footage exclusively with ITV News to show the "inhumane conditions" that people are being subjected to for long periods of time, in some cases years.

Three years ago, Hope, not her real name, escaped an abusive situation in Malaysia. For the last three years, she’s been waiting for a decision on her asylum claim and shuttled between hotels and temporary housing, which she describes as substandard.

'I just want some kindness,' says Hope, an asylum seeker from Malaysia

Right now, she’s sleeping on a broken bed and doesn’t even have a functioning toilet.

“Nobody should have to live in these conditions, like you shouldn’t have a life because you are an asylum seeker in the country," she said.

"We are looked at like we are dirty or a parasite, like we’ve been using your money. We are here, we are struggling.”

The sales and marketing graduate is desperate to find a job and provide for her young son, but as an asylum seeker she’s unable to work.

There’s a huge backlog in asylum applications. As of June 2022, official figures show there were 127,026 cases awaiting an initial decision or "pending further review" - a four-fold increase compared to 2018.

Just 4% of people who arrived in small boats in 2021 have had a decision. Those processing delays result in long and expensive stays in hotels, at a huge cost to the taxpayer.

The government is currently spending almost £7 million a day on hotel bills, yet there’s growing evidence that living conditions can be wretched.

There are also serious safety concerns. Hersana, a London based charity, warn that women have been sexually harassed in asylum seeker hotels for months and fear for their safety.

Charity worker Christabel details the claims of abuse made by some women

“We’ve had rape allegations, sexual assault, sexual harassment, to being followed by people inside the hotels, but also outside of the hotels," said the charity’s Chief Vision officer Christabel Yeboah.

"We’ve just ordered 500 rape alarms, to make sure women are feeling safer than they do at the moment.”

All of this is taking a huge toll on mental health. At a hotel in Stockport where there have been reports of a scabies outbreak, one man is now in his fourth week on hunger strike demanding better conditions for his family. He sent ITV News a video from his hospital bed.

“I am seeking to end, or at least reduce, the harm caused to my family by the inhumane and degrading treatment to which we and others have been subjected to.”

Pictures from inside the hotel obtained by ITV News show waste in the corridors.

Others described "prison-like" conditions and "rubbish everywhere you look".

37,000 asylum seekers are currently living in hotels. Councils warn they are struggling to cope with the numbers arriving and the extra pressure that puts on public services.

ITV News knows of at least eight local authorities who have or are considering taking legal action against the Home Office to block the use of hotels in their areas.

Cllr David King (Lib Dem) Leader of Colchester Council described the Home Office as a "failed department" that is "dropping its problem on local authorities with no notice and no consultation".

Cllr David King blames the Home Office for the pressure put on local councils

“The government has to grow up and accept, not disguise, that migration is a problem that’s not going away. We need to invest longer term. Time and money will help, they also have to spread the challenge to local authorities across the country,” he said.

In response to our investigation, the Home Office said the use of hotels is a short-term solution and it is working hard with councils to find alternatives as swiftly as possible.

It added that accusations of abuse are investigated within "a robust safeguarding framework for all asylum seekers in our care".

“Accommodation providers are committed to working very closely with public health colleagues to prevent the spread of any infectious disease or condition that may be detected within asylum accommodation,” a spokesperson said.