Hotel for asylum seekers to expand, despite claims of ‘inhumane’ conditions

By Harrison Galliven, Local Democracy Reporter

Owners of a Croydon hotel housing hundreds of asylum seekers have been granted permission to build six new rooms, despite claims of prison-like conditions and alleged abuse among residents.

The Best Western London Queen’s Hotel in Church Road, Crystal Palace has housed hundreds of asylum seekers awaiting their claims to be processed since 2021, with Clearsprings managing the placement of people on behalf of the Home Office.

Reports of sexual harassment and assault on the premises, including the alleged rape of a 12-year-old girl, and ongoing concerns around the quality of the accommodation, have led to some calling for the council to intervene.

Some campaigners have also said the 566 occupants of the hotel are currently living in ‘prison-like’ conditions.

The application to build the new rooms was granted by Croydon’s planning committee late last month and will bring the total number up to 335 rooms.

Despite all councillors acknowledging that the plans did not break any planning rules, a number of the Labour committee members expressed concerns over the conditions in the hotel rather than of the plans themselves.

Councillor Clive Fraser said: “I think this hotel is a very poor reflection on us as a society and how we treat people, but also with planning we have limited powers to do anything about it.”

Councillor Leila Ben-Hassel added: “I understand that this is purely planning, but we’re not robots sitting on a committee, we’re human beings. For me, it’s very hard for me to just look at it as a hotel.”

During a scathing objection to the plans, Cllr Patsy Cummings told the committee of the cramped conditions inside the hotel’s rooms.

She said: “Some of the subterranean rooms have no windows, there are first-floor windows that can’t open, you can literally stand with your arm stretched and reach either side of the room.”

While previous applications made by the hotel planned for more subterranean rooms with no natural sunlight, the plans specified that all six rooms would have windows.

The plans will also see the demolition of the lower ground floor level and the construction of a new lower ground floor, which will also house a new dining area.

Adam Yasir. who co-chairs the Croydon Refugee and New Communities Forum, said: “The Forum stands firm in condemning Croydon council’s appalling decision to green light the expansion plans.

“The move comes despite the glaringly inhumane conditions faced by the current 566 displaced individuals, including vulnerable children, who are crammed into this makeshift prison-like facility.

“Residents endure overcrowding, inadequate ventilation, rampant pest infestations and perilous health hazards such as pervasive mould growth.

“Shockingly, reports of sexual harassment and assault within the premises paint a harrowing picture of neglect and systemic failure on the part of the authorities.”

Cllr Yasir also said that in January 2022 a young Kurdish man tried to take his own life – he was one of the people living in a windowless basement room – suggesting mental health was also being badly affected.

The site has been subject to a number of planning applications since 2018, leading to the hotel slowly enlarging over the years.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Despite the pressure facing the asylum system, we continue to provide accommodation for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute as we work to end the use of hotels.

“We take the welfare of those in our care extremely seriously and supported asylum seekers have access to a 24/7 helpline to raise any concerns regarding the support they receive. Where concerns are raised about any aspect of the service delivered in a hotel we work with the provider to ensure these concerns are addressed.”

Croydon council and Clearsprings have been approached for comment.

Pictured top: The Queen’s Hotel (Picture: Google Street View)

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