CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Home Office shrugs off dreadful asylum living conditions

18 August, 2017

Asylum seeker Ben Cosnova Tsohuka

AN asylum seeker from the Congo contacted this newspaper this week in desperation and hope that we could provide a “voice for the voiceless”.

We are happy to oblige. The group of people living in the Home Office’s “dispersal accommodation” in Kilburn are living in horrendous conditions that should bring shame on this country.

Throughout the 20th century, government policy has been torn between the conflicting pressures. On the one hand there is the necessity of upholding a passionate and proud tradition of Britain as a country that welcomes asylum seekers.

On the other, is the perception wrought by Margaret Thatcher in the late ’80s that the country is being “swamped”, and is too fragile to absorb significant refugee communities.

Many of these people have been forced to flee their homes, often leaving behind respectable jobs and their families lost, some never to be heard from again.

Etched on every face in the building was fear, confusion, frustration and anger. The claustrophobia of the living conditions cannot be understated. Grown men, from different countries, many with no English, sleeping side by side. They wake with blood-splattered sheets from the small bugs in the mattresses. In the day, unable to work and without money, they have nothing to do but sit cooped up together for hours on end. With just one washing machine, hygiene is poor. They all spoke of the images they had of Great Britain before they set off – a land of justice, equality and freedom.

And despite all of this, only one of the adults resident was ready to make a complaint to the authorities, let alone go public in a newspaper.

Mr Tsohuka, who claims to have suffered physical torture before leaving his country, is now wrestling internally with a new ethical apocalypse.

Behind the overcrowding, the bed bugs, the damp, the lack of basic facilities is, of course, the outsourcing and profit. How dare the Home Office weakly pass blame on to its contractor. Not our responsibility, it says. The company would be properly vetted by various statutory bodies.

The investment company that leases the mansion blocks to the Government sits contentedly in the background. Who are the real voiceless here?

PFI questions

THOSE seeking justice over the Grenfell disaster have this week expressed outrage at the narrow focus of the public inquiry.

Broader social questions raised by the fire, and the inadequacy of housing standards, will not be addressed. Here in Camden – almost two months on since the Chalcots evacuation – questions still remain, particularly over the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

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