REFUGEES have been protesting living conditions of Milton Hilltop Hotel in Carlisle - saying they feel like they are 'being treated like prisoners'.

The asylum seekers have been protesting on the grounds of the hotel, the car park, and on the building’s roof.

Their presence at the Milton Hilltop Hotel was a decision made by Serco, a Government contractor that provided housing and support for refugees seeking asylum in the UK while they await news on their immigration status.

On the presence of refugees in hotels, Jenni Halliday, contract director for asylum accommodation services at Serco said earlier this year that the decision was made to house these people in hotels as a reaction to a greater increase.

She said there was no alternative but to put them up ‘temporarily’ in hotels across the UK, as a ‘last resort’.

However, it is not always a hotel experience that the refugees get, as it is the purported experience of the Hilltop refugees that they are living in poor conditions.

The refugees were from a range of countries where some of their population were able to secure asylum in a safer country, escaping war.

Ismail, a man who was asked by his fellow men to speak on behalf of the refugees present today (August 15), is a Kurdish refugee from Iraq, who said: “It is all about wanting to change the hotel that we are staying at.

“We want the government to send us to another city.

“It doesn’t matter what city it is, just anywhere else.

“We have all just got so much depression and anxiety from staying here.

“We have already run out of our country and, of course, we are thankful for the Government that we are all now safe, but we feel like we are being kept prisoner here.

“The living conditions here are really bad.

“We just want to be sent to another place.”

A resident whose house overlooks the hotel said the windows at the back of the hotel are derelict and smashed.

News and Star: The windows at the back of the Milton Hilltop hotel The windows at the back of the Milton Hilltop hotel

Police officers were present to facilitate the refugees’ right to protest.

A spokesperson from Cumbria police said: “We were made aware of a peaceful protest involving a small number of people at a property in the London Road area of Carlisle.

“This has now been resolved.

“UK police has a long history of facilitating peaceful protest and upholding the right to protest while balancing it with the duty to keep people safe and seek to minimise disruption.
“Our officers liaised with other agencies and monitored the situation until its conclusion.”

A Cumbria County Council spokesperson, said: “We are aware of the peaceful protest at a property in the London Road area of Carlisle.

“We are working with SERCO, district council partners and local third sector organisations to support refugees and asylum seekers in Cumbria and ensure any concerns they have are listened to.”

A spokesperson from the Home Office said: "No asylum seeker in asylum contingency accommodation is detained and they are free to come and go as they please.

“We are dealing with an unprecedented increase in asylum cases but despite this we continue to ensure that the accommodation provided is safe, secure and leaves no one destitute. 

"Asylum seekers receive three varied meals a day, designed to cater for cultural difference and that meet NHS Eatwell Standards."

They added: "All asylum seekers in hotels are provided with full board accommodation with three meals a day served as well as all other essentials, including cash payments where eligible.

"Those in full-board accommodation receive the £8.24 weekly payment to cover essential living items.

"This is intended to cover clothing, non-prescription medicine and travel.

"The new fairer asylum dispersal model, in which all local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales became asylum dispersal areas, will reduce the use of hotels.

"The Nationality and Borders Act will fix the broken asylum system, which is costing the taxpayer almost £5million a day on hotels, by processing applications more quickly and focusing on those genuinely fleeing persecution."

The Milton Hilltop Hotel was approached but has refused to comment.

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