Asylum seekers in hotels are being subjected to false imprisonment and a 23-hour a day curfew, according to a legal challenge lodged in the high court.
An asylum seeker, who cannot be named, has launched judicial review proceedings against the home secretary, Priti Patel, challenging the “curfew”. He says there is no legal basis for the restrictions, which amount to false imprisonment and deprivation of liberty in breach of the European convention on human rights. The high court has given the Home Office until 4pm on Friday to file a response to the claim.
Solicitors from Matthew Gold, who are bringing the legal challenge, say they are aware of at least 11 hotels imposing this type of restriction, including the one the asylum seeker bringing the case is in. Ten are in London.
The asylum seeker in the case was moved into the hotel in mid-January. He says he has been told that if he is absent for more than an hour a day doing exercise and essential food shopping he will be reported to the Home Office, and that it could damage his right to accommodation and his asylum claim. Security guards at the door ask questions about where the asylum seekers are going, enforce a rule that they sign in and out, and check their bags when they return.
Coronavirus lockdown rules do not restrict the amount of time each day that people can leave home for to do exercise or essential shopping.
The asylum seeker bringing the case fled persecution, which included state detention and abuse. He says the enforcement of the curfew is a traumatic reminder of what happened to him in his home country.
The Guardian has seen a letter received by other asylum seekers accommodated at a London hotel threatening to call 999 if they are found to be breaking the rules about leaving the hotel.
Hotels have been targeted by supporters of the far right who claim asylum seekers are living a life of luxury there.
Reading Healthwatch published a report in November examining the situation of 80 asylum seekers accommodated in a hotel in the city. It found that some had experienced unsafe breaks in medication such as insulin after being moved to the area from other parts of the UK.
Some of the asylum seekers at the hotel recently embarked on a hunger strike in protest at conditions, including food which they said was inedible.
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