By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
Hundreds of asylum seekers are living in “overcrowded” conditions at a Croydon hotel – with some being forced to share rooms with strangers of different nationalities.
At the moment there are around 490 people, including dozens of children in a single hotel since September.
The hotel has not been named in coverage due to threats and visits from far-right groups.
The Home Office says they were moved to Croydon due to “unprecedented demand”.
But Adam Yasir, co-chair of the Croydon refugee forum, has been supporting the asylum seekers since their arrival by bringing donations from charities and setting them up with English classes.
He said that back in September members of a far-right group visited the main hotel which left residents feeling “angry and confused”.
The 30-year-old is a refugee himself and came to Croydon aged 15 from Sudan.
He said: “There are two to three people in a room, it is overcrowded and a lot of people who are vulnerable are not getting the right support.
“People from different nationalities are put together, it is a bit chaotic.
“There should be a more coordinated effort from the Home Office. They should have a have better communication to say ‘we are going to bring 50 children in they need schools’.
“Some children went for three months without school.
“The communities in the hotels are just waiting, they don’t know what will happen, they don’t know anything about their asylum claims.
“If the Croydon community wasn’t engaged with them they would be very, very isolated.”
Mr Yasir is working with a group of five volunteers to support those living in the hotels.
This week he arranged for a group to attend a mindfulness session at the new London South Bank University (LSBU) campus in Wellesley Road.
This is set to be a monthly thing and he hopes to offer legal advice and other support. The university has also given the group an office space rent free for a year.
This base has added poignancy for Mr Yasir as it was where he had to report to weekly as a teenager when the Home Office was based at the building.
He would walk over to the building from Croydon College, fearing he would be deported.
He added: “I am one of the thousands who used to report in Electric House regularly for months until my immigration rep had to make a plea from the Home Office to withdraw their request from me to report every Thursday.
“However, the damage was already done and the mental scars stay with me until this very moment.”
A government spokesperson said: “We are using hotels to manage unprecedented demand and we encourage all local authorities to volunteer their support and work with us.
“We are mindful of pressures on local authorities and are determined to end the use of temporary accommodation as soon as possible.”
But a Croydon council spokesperson said it is not clear how long people will be based at hotels in the borough.
They said: “The Home Office has commissioned hotels to house asylum seekers in Croydon and is managing them entirely independently of the council.
“However, the council, local health services and Croydon voluntary organisations have worked to support those placed there by coordinating health visits, safeguarding support, links with local children’s centres, supporting children to get places in local schools and providing language classes through our Croydon Adult Learning and Training (CALAT) team.
“The Home Office have not provided us with any indication of their intent regarding the duration of the commissioning of the rooms and we are seeking clarity on this.”
Mr Yasir is currently looking for more volunteers to help support those based in Croydon hotels, email [email protected] if you can help.
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