Better Wi-Fi, more financial assistance, and private rooms were just some of the demands made by migrants who demonstrated outside the doors of their new hotel accommodation in an upscale residential area of central London on Thursday.
The group of adult men, many of whom arrived in Britain illegally in small boats via the English Channel with a view to claiming asylum, used their suitcases to barricade the front doors to the Pimlico Comfort Inn and staged a pavement protest against what they consider to be offensive living standards afforded to them by the British government.
The group was recently transferred from a hotel in Ilford, Essex, but told reporters that their new accommodation was not to their taste and refused to return to their rooms until they are each provided with private accommodation.
“They said we’re going to move you to another, better place. They gave us this postcode. When we checked on Google Maps, we said, oh this is very nice. But when you get in, it’s like a jail. And they treat you very, very bad. They treat you like an animal,” a 21-year-old Iranian national who arrived in Britain via small boat told The Telegraph newspaper.
Some complained that they had previously been assigned two people to a room, but were now expected to share an en-suite room with three others. The group also bemoaned the smell from the toilet and poor internet access.
“We are not kids, everybody had a private room. We need a private room. How do you live with four men?” asked a 26-year-old African male.
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A local resident who lives close to the hotel told Remix: “I live very close to this hotel (3 or 4 mins away) in London, and the scene yesterday really was bizarre. Lots of migrants sitting on the street outside the hotel said they would not go back in, as the taxpayer-funded accommodation was substandard.
“When I asked one of them, they went into a long rant about the bathrooms being dirty. Frankly, it does look like a terrible hotel, but tourists used to pay £100 plus to stay there.”
Richard Tice, the leader of the Reform Party founded by Nigel Farage, filmed an exchange with an Iraqi national named Dia, one of the migrants objecting to the living conditions.
“These people come from another hotel and this hotel is not good,” Dia told the politician.
He explained that the migrants had come from a hotel with big, nice rooms where he had been living for two years, but considered their new accommodation to be “very small” and the Wi-Fi “too weak.”
He added that he “can do nothing” with the government allowance of £8 per week, as London is “too expensive,” although he noted that his hotel accommodation and food — which he said is reasonable — are paid for on top of this.
Tice wryly apologized on behalf of the British taxpayer for the poor accommodation and offered to go and talk to the manager on the migrants’ behalf.
Commenting on the stunt, backbench Conservative MP Lee Anderson tweeted: “The bare-faced cheek. If you don’t like our tax payer funded rooms then there is your old tent waiting back in France. You know where France is? It’s that safe country you left where they will accept an asylum claim.”
The Home Office has sought to alleviate the financial burden on the U.K. taxpayer to accommodate the large influx of migrants seeking asylum in Britain in recent months, with the current bill estimated to be approximately £6 million (€7 million) per day.
Efforts have been made to relocate existing migrants to more cost-effective accommodation, for example by doubling room capacity. The governing Conservative party has also announced plans to house new arrivals on floating barges and in disused military bases in rural locations, despite widespread public criticism from local residents concerned about the social ramifications arising from such a proposal.
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“We are trying to drive down the costs and number of hotels by various mechanisms,” a government source told The Telegraph. “You see on TikTok, you get the people smugglers saying you will get your own hotel place.
“We are trying to cut down on the costs. If they say they don’t want to go to the accommodation that they are offered, we can withdraw support.”
Commenting on the pavement protest, a Home Office spokesman insisted the accommodation offered to the migrants in question is “of a decent standard and meets all legal and contractual requirements.”