Hounslow Council’s Annual Public Health Report 2022-23 highlights the critical health and wellbeing issues faced by asylum seekers living in hotels in Hounslow and the urgent need for greater support for them.
Published: Wednesday, 29th November 2023
The report looks at the physical and mental health impacts of cramped living conditions, poor food nutrition, lack of privacy, lack of health care and mother and baby provision, lack of meaningful opportunities, lack of safe, healthy outdoor spaces for children to play, poor integration with the community, and having to share rooms with strangers.
The impacts have manifested into a range of challenging – and potentially costly – physical and mental health, and safeguarding issues, including depression, suicide ideation, gestational diabetes due to poor nutrition, and risk of domestic and/or sexual abuse.
One case study highlighted in the report tells of a four-year-old child who has become so withdrawn that they refuse to leave the hotel room. Health professionals fear the child could be suffering from clinical depression.
Presenting the report on 28 November, Hounslow Council’s lead member for migration and asylum and Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Development, Councillor Tom Bruce said:
“This groundbreaking report highlights the unacceptable conditions that asylum seekers living in hotel accommodation face and the impact it is having on their health. Parents face feeding their families poor quality, microwaved food in cramped conditions. It is often undercooked and even frozen when it arrives. Some of the hotels have no communal areas, meaning people eat, sleep and live in their rooms. Most have lived like this for at least six months, and some have been in hotel rooms for two years.
“We have seen female asylum seekers become pre-diabetic or develop gestational diabetes. Many adults suffer high levels of distress, and depression and have feelings of suicide. Young children are stuck in rooms with very limited safe spaces to play. Those early years of socialising, nurturing and play are lost, and when they eventually start school, they are often left behind and may never catch up.”
“74% of asylum-seeking claimants are granted refugee status or leave to remain in the UK, thus validating their claim. Many of the current asylum seekers living in hotels in Hounslow and across the country will be future citizens and our neighbours. It is our duty to help them so they can enjoy productive lives not just for themselves but for society in general.
“The report highlights another example of a broken and wasteful immigration system in which vulnerable people, in particular children, are left to deteriorate. This government-led, so-called contingency scheme is enabling misery and missed opportunities.”
On Hold: The Lived Experiences of Asylum Seekers in Hounslow's Contingency Hotels - provides an independent and objective examination of the met and unmet needs of asylum seekers and the challenges faced by local services assisting them.
It calls on the government and other agencies to take urgent action to provide greater resources to support people seeking asylum and to work more closely with local authorities to address the unacceptable conditions many asylum seekers, including children, are subject to.
Kelly O’Neill, Hounslow’s Director of Public Health and author of the report, said: “Our report identifies a clear need for more resources to support the mental and physical health and wellbeing of asylum seekers living in hotel accommodation in Hounslow.
“There is an urgent need for action. Local services are facing increasing pressure due to the extra strain placed on them through supporting our asylum-seeker population. We have found that many of the asylum seekers in our borough who are living in hotel accommodation are facing conditions that are detrimental to their physical and mental health. Their lives are on hold while decisions are taken about their future. If we do not act now, the situation will only worsen, and the cost will be far greater.”
There are 15 recommendations to come from the annual public health report all of which can be read in the executive summary.