A judge in the high court has ordered the Home Office to move a torture and trafficking victim out of a “prison-like” hotel surrounded by an 8ft wall.
Judge Coe QC heard an application for urgent action known as interim relief against the Home Office after officials failed to move the man, known as AA, from the Crowne Plaza hotel near Heathrow airport to more suitable accommodation.
The order, made on Tuesday, is thought to be the first of its kind. It is hoped that it will help other trafficking victims accommodated in unsuitable hotels by the Home Office.
The man, who became a potential victim of trafficking in Turkey after escaping from torture in Kuwait, suffers from such severe pain in his back and other parts of his body that he is unable to sit for more than 20 minutes at a time and spends much of his time lying flat on the floor in his room. The Home Office said it had found him accommodation in Leicester but he said it was not physically possible for him to sit in a car for such a long journey.
The court heard that the Crowne Plaza, with its intimidating high fences, bag searches and security guards, is not a suitable environment for a trafficking victim.
Chris Buttler, representing AA, said that the hotel “manifestly fails to meet the client’s recovery needs”. But Julie Anderson for the Home Office said the delays in sourcing more suitable accommodation were due to pandemic-related problems.
Judge Coe responded that there has been a “significant delay” for the trafficking victim in a case that has been going on for more than a month. “AA has been in a deteriorating state for the last month,” the judge said.
AA’s solicitor, Maria Thomas from Duncan Lewis, welcomed the court’s decision. “We represent many victims of modern slavery in the Crowne Plaza who have struggled and felt unsafe for months in conditions they describe as ‘prison-like’ and ‘dehumanising’,” she said. “This has led to a significant deterioration of their mental and physical wellbeing.”
She added that she hoped today’s judgment would encourage the Home Office to change the way it allocates accommodation to modern slavery victims.
Today’s high court order comes as other problems with asylum seeker accommodation have emerged. A family of seven including five children aged between two and 16 were moved into emergency accommodation on Sunday evening after the collapse of the ceiling at their accommodation in east London provided by the Home Office contractor Clearsprings.
Tia Bush, a policy officer at the charity Care4Calais, which is supporting the family, said it was concerning that so many asylum seekers were placed in accommodation that is not fit for purpose.
“The family had been complaining about a leak in the bathroom for some time. Had this been fixed more promptly the ceiling collapse could probably have been avoided,” she said.
The Home Office and Clearsprings have been approached for comment.