Refugees tell UTV they're living in 'prison like conditions' in hotels

Refugees being housed in hotels in Northern Ireland have claimed they are enduring prison-like conditions.

"We are all suffering," one resident, too scared to reveal his identity, told UTV.

"We are struggling and we are worried about our kids and their future. 

"We feel very bad watching them in these closed areas, and they are not living their healthy life."

Over one thousand refugees are currently housed in hotels procured here for the Home Office.

Now some are raising their voices about what they say their lives are like.

In a video provided to UTV a resident said he is literally plucking feathers from the chicken he was served.

Several asylum seekers told us the food is not suitable for those with specific health needs and for children.

"All my kids are sick," one Syrian man told us.

"We have been in the hotel for nine months now and we are not eating, all of us are not eating, especially the kids….

"We are struggling with this situation.

"We were in a different hotel before and then they moved us and we thought, 'we are going to a house; a better place.'

Lobby group PPR has compiled the complaints and sent them to the Home Office.  

They include testimony from a pregnant woman who has said she is facing health problems because of the food quality and someone with special dietary requirements who claims they are only offered food they can't eat.

Mears Housing Group, who are contracted to oversee the accommodation, have said residents receive three meals a day and that consideration is made for cultural needs.

In a statement Mears said: "Due to the rise in the number of people seeking asylum, hotels are being used as contingency accommodation by the Home Office across the UK, including in Northern Ireland.  

"Menus meet NHS Eat Well standards and are nutritionally balanced.   

"Snacks and drinks are available throughout the day.

"We make special provision for dietary or religious needs, medical needs, and food intolerances. 

"Mears aims to move service users on to suitable accommodation in the community as soon as possible but there is currently an acute shortage of available properties." 

In a statement a Home Office spokesperson said:

“We have advised PPR that asylum seekers can raise formal complaints through the Migrant Help helpline any day of the year and that the testimonies they submit are not an actionable form of complaint.

“We expect the highest standards from our accommodation providers which is why we speak to them about delivery and performance daily, as well as holding formal weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings to ensure contractual obligations are followed.”

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