Asylum seeker on hunger strike against 'inhumane' treatment at Stockport hotel

Words and video report by Will Tullis, ITV News

An asylum seeker has now gone fifteen days without food as part of a hunger strike against what he calls "inhumane and degrading" treatment by Home Office-contracted staff at a Stockport hotel.

Hasan, whose name we have changed, was housed in the hotel - which is run by contractor Serco - by the Home Office. He is one of over 100 asylum seekers at the hotel who are waiting for their asylum claims to be processed.

Hasan's condition deteriorated following his hunger strike, and he was taken to hospital.Speaking for the first time, he sent ITV News a video from his hospital bed - via the Manchester charity RAPAR - where he said he felt forced to take action."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 by Serco", he said.

"In pursuit of those reasonable aims, I am on hunger strike, accepting only fluids, electrolytes and vitamins, as recommended by my doctors", he added.

Hasan wants his family are rehoused in "reasonable conditions" and has also called for hotel residents' complaints to be resolved.

"We residents must not be subjected to any form of retribution if we raise complaints", he added.

Serco strongly rejects the allegations.

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

ITV News has heard from seven asylum seekers at the hotel, who make the same claims, and say they are being forced to live in poor conditions.

There has been a confirmed case of scabies at the hotel and residents allege waste is left in corridors and disrepair issues go unresolved.Several of the hotel residents we spoke to alleged Serco staff threaten them if they try to complain.Amin - whose name we have changed to protect his identity - is just a teenager. He and his family fled a warzone and sought safety in the UK.

But he said conditions at the Stockport hotel have got so bad, he felt the need to speak out.

"It's like an open prison", he said, speaking at the office of Manchester charity RAPAR.

"The way people treat us there is awful. Sometimes if you do something wrong they shout at us and they scare us.

"Inside there are big rubbish bags everywhere...it's very disgusting and it smells as well."Amin stressed that he and other asylum seekers at the hotel have tried to make suggestions but claim their calls have fallen on deaf ears.

"Even when you try and speak to staff they speak to you like there's nothing you can do", he said."It makes me feel sad...all we want is for the government to deal with our asylum cases quickly, and put us in suitable accommodation."

Amin also described the scabies outbreak that was confirmed by Stockport Council.

"There was a child on my floor who got scabies everywhere on their body. We were scared to get it too", he said.

A teenage asylum seeker housed at the Stockport hotel said living there feels like an 'open prison'.

About 37,000 asylum seekers are currently living in hotels in the UK, while they wait for their asylum claims to be processed.Inadequate and often cramped conditions at temporary accommodation for asylum seekers has lead directly to outbreaks of infections like scabies and diphtheria, some charities have said.It was confirmed this week that asylum seekers at the Manston asylum centre in Kent will be vaccinated against diphtheria after dozens of cases of the highly contagious disease were confirmed in England.Dr Rhetta Moran of RAPAR has been supporting some of the asylum seekers at the Stockport hotel. She criticised the way the government doesn't permit asylum seekers to work.

"Nobody knows what you are going through better than you", she said.

"So it's very important that you are able to be part of finding the right way forward.

"There are teachers in these hotels...people who have built houses, IT people.

"They must have the right to work and they must be allowed and enabled to exercise control over where they live and how they are living there."

Dr Moran also criticised the so-called "hostile environment" for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. She urged people and government not to make refugees scapegoats.

"These are people who have been through some of the most awful conditions. We must not be drawn into the latest attempts to divide and rule."

Asylum seekers 'must have' the right to work, Dr Rhetta Moran of RAPAR told ITV News.

Serco rejects the claims made by the people, and charity, we have spoken to. The Home Office said where concerns are raised about any aspect of the service delivered in a hotel they work with the provider to ensure these concerns are addressed.

Responding to the claims, the Home Office told ITV News: "While asylum seekers have access to 24/7 helpline to raise any concerns they have and are able to make formal complaints which will be followed up."

However, RAPAR and asylum seekers in the Stockport hotel said they have tried to use the complaint helpline but "to no avail".

For those asylum seekers in the Stockport hotel, the wait for their asylum claims to be processed - and their new lives to begin - continues.