Pregnant women housed in ‘dehumanizing’ asylum accommodation in Glasgow

Pregnant women and mothers with newborns are being housed in ‘dehumanizing’ accommodation without adequate food or facilities, a charity has claimed.

A dozen pregnant women and new mothers seeking asylum have been placed at McLays Guest House, where they live in cramped single rooms with no access to cooking facilities.

Home Office contractor Mears attributed the situation to a shortage of suitable housing in the community and said the set up was only an “emergency measure”.

However, women living at the hotel said the food provided was not entirely nutritious for expectant mothers, including a woman with diabetes which she struggled to control.

They also feared that they would not be able to provide appropriate care for their infants.

As the B&B is fully serviced, women are entitled to £8.24 per week on a prepaid Asylum Support Enablement Card (ASPEN).

Some have not yet received their right and therefore have no funds.

Robina Qureshi, CEO of charity Positive Action in Housing, said: ‘They haven’t had a baby box or support or resources to prepare their baby, which is something every mother wants to do.

“It’s been going on for months.

“At a time when we can all see the need for Ukrainian war refugees to receive benefits, the right to work and resettlement assistance, why the Home Office and its accommodation contractor Mears Group do they treat pregnant women and new mothers who are also fleeing war or the persecution of war refugees, and happen to be non-European and of color, in such a dehumanizing way.

“Accommodating large numbers of pregnant women in hotels without specific support is inappropriate and potentially dangerous.”

Mears said ‘all’ family requirements are being met, including bottles, changing mats and nappies, but said residents are being reported to charities for help with clothes and strollers .

A spokesperson said all food provided meets NHS Eatwell guidelines and service users with diabetes are catered for.

The women, mostly from African countries such as Sierra Leone, Somalia and Namibia, include three women residing in McLays who are hospitalized and have given birth, five pregnant women in McLays and two others who have just given birth and are income. at the hotel instead of their own private accommodation.

McLays Guest House on Renfrew Street in Glasgow Photo: Gordon Terris

A woman, who has now given birth, told the Herald she would have to take her baby to bed with her as the room was too small for a cot.

She had to refuse materials for her newborn baby because there was no place to keep it.

Another woman said she was moved to McLays after being accommodated in a hotel in Paisley overlooking Glasgow Airport.

She said: ‘When I woke up and saw the airport every day I thought they were going to take me away.

“I was crying and they moved me and brought me to McLays.

“The food here is not good. Complaining is useless, there is no change.

Although the women said they were grateful for the support and accommodation they had received, they worried about their children.

One said: “I have food, I have a roof over my head, I sleep in safety and I wake up.

“We say thank God that we have food for free, we say thank you because you can’t afford it and people give it to you.”

A mother-to-be said, “For me, where I come from, the environment here is better because there is no fighting or killing.

“I can say for myself that the room I sleep in now is better than the one I slept in at home because it was very difficult.

“People here are good and will help.

“I never imagined that I would get this support – free clothes, medical care, for the baby…”

Shocked, she added: “I can’t talk anymore.

Another woman, in her early twenties, had slept rough for a month before being housed at McLays.

She described the monotony of her daily routine, compounded by the lack of access to funds.

She said: ‘At the hotel you have the same life routine every day. You eat the same food every day, it’s the same way of life, nothing changes.

“I wouldn’t want to be very pregnant there. [on the streets] but going through the things that we go through and having to live this tense life that you just have to hold on to, it’s really not easy.

“I get up and go to have breakfast, then if I don’t have morning sickness and I don’t feel tired, I go for a walk.

“But if I feel sick, I stay in my room and wait for lunch, then I stay in my room and wait for dinner.”

Positive Action in Housing has organized hospital bags and volunteers to provide individual support for each woman while the charity’s Emergency Relief Fund provides funds for clothing, nutritious food and items for babies.

Ms Qureshi said staff were also asking the Home Office to provide private accommodation for the new families.

She added: ‘The Home Office’s use of hotels as accommodation for pregnant women and mothers with newborn babies is dangerous and unacceptable.

“We have dealt with similar cases over the past year in Glasgow, and midwives have consistently described bed and breakfasts and hotels as ‘totally unsuitable’.

“In addition, they will need safe bedding for the baby.

“This violates the most basic human rights and puts the most vulnerable children at risk.”

A spokesperson for Mears said: “We are currently accommodating a small number of pregnant service users and service users with young children on a short-term basis at McLays Guest House, while we arrange suitable alternative accommodation. ”

A Home Office spokesperson added: ‘Pregnant women and mothers of newborns who apply for asylum and are destitute receive support while we consider their application, including free accommodation, services public and a weekly allowance.

“New mothers can apply for additional financial support.”

About Michael B. Billingsley

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