Asylum seeker children in Borough hotel left shivering, in the dark and without running water

Kit Heren (16 December, 2021)

One of the children came up to a school worker to say: 'Miss, can you help me? Nobody’s helping us.'


Dozens of asylum seekers living in Borough – including a three-month-old baby – were left without water and sitting in the dark and cold this week, and suffered smoke inhalation from a fire and even a cockroach infestation.

The families, which include more than ten children between them, were without electricity for a day, and remain without running water or heating, according to Redin, a 15-year-old who acts as a translator for the rest of the community, and a staff member at St Jude’s Primary, where six of the children go to school.

The Home Office said the electricity problem was now fixed, and said the electricity, the water and heating problems were unrelated to the nearby fire.

Whatever the cause may have been, the outages have created a “terrible” situation for the families, according to the school worker. The youngest child in the hotel was a three-month-old baby who is now unwell because of the smoke, the teenager Redin said.

“We were left for days with no water, no nothing,” he added.

The St Jude’s staff member recalled how one of the children came up to her at school and said: “Miss can you help me? Nobody’s helping us.” 

The Home Office is responsible for housing asylum seekers in the borough, not Southwark Council.

Redin’s family has now moved temporarily to Hounslow, but this has created its own problems. He and his sister were the only members of the community who spoke good English, and so acted as translators. He and his younger brother are also at school in Bermondsey, and it is unclear if they will be moved back before the end of the school holidays.

St Jude’s staff had been “trying every avenue” with the Home Office to get all of the families moved to better accommodation. A spokesperson for the Home Office said asylum seekers with housing problems should call the charity Migrant Help.

The families were evacuated temporarily from the hotel on Tuesday because of the fire, which the fire brigade said affected the hotel and shops nearby. The fire lasted for about two hours before firefighters were able to get it under control. The fire brigade said it was caused by faulty electrical equipment. The Home Office said there was no fire damage to the hotel.

The Kurdish Iraqi families have been living in the hotel for some five months and have been in the UK for about a year and three months.

This isn’t the first problem they say they have had in the hotel.

Before the fire several of the asylum seekers living in the hotel were allegedly bitten by bedbugs, leaving them with angry red marks. There was also a cockroach infestation. After that the hotel was fumigated but that gave some of the people living there a nasty rash.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “A hotel used to house asylum seekers was evacuated for a short period because of a nearby fire, to ensure the safety of everyone staying there. As the hotel was unaffected, people were returned as soon as all necessary precautions had been followed.

“An unrelated electricity issue has since been resolved.”

A phone number for the hotel where the families are staying did not connect. Staff members at the hotel declined to comment when visited in person.


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