Charity claims refugees in Bristol hotel are served food that’s ‘rotten, out of date and basically inedible’
‘People go without eating, and sometimes all of them don’t get fed at all’
Refugees being temporarily housed in a Bristol hotel are being served ‘inedible food’ according to a local charity working with the group.
Angie Bual is the founder and creative director and local arts charity Trigger, which started working with a group of asylum seekers at a Bristol hotel in the middle of last year.
She says: “I saw somebody standing at the bus stop and pulled over to give him a lift into town. I took his number and it grew from there into WhatsApp groups with a number of the guys from the hotel, and members of the local community who were wanting to help.
“There are no other refugee support organisations in the area, so we stepped in to respond to the needs of this community. As well as these lifts we’ve organised collections to support their immediate needs – coats, shoes, school uniforms, bicycles and mobile phones to language translate and stay connected to their family at home.
“Trigger has mobilised around this group and now also run weekly food and cooking workshops, which has been an incredible opportunity for learning and connection. The knowledge sharing works both ways; we’ve learnt about food and food rituals from all over the world.
“These guys get served food that’s rotten, out of date and basically inedible. I’ve seen the food myself at meetings in the hotel, and it’s deflating to see the lack of sympathy and respect. People with specific health conditions and food requirements go without eating, and sometimes all of them don’t get fed at all.”
Bristol World has been contacted by one refugee who has been staying at the hotel and he has shared photos of the food being served. We have chosen not to reveal his identity or the location of the hotel.
The man says there are around 100 refugees in the hotel, with average age of 30-40 years old. The youngest is 18 and the oldest is over 50.
He says the asylum seekers are from Iran, Iraq, African countries and Arab countries. There are a few from Russia and the CIS countries.
The food served in the hotels is supplied by contractors working on behalf of the Home Office. The man claims the hotel’s kitchen is not being used and refugees aren’t allowed to cook food in their rooms.
He said: “On the ground floor there is one microwave for the entire hotel. We take turns using it.
“We’d like to be able to cook in the kitchen but we aren’t allowed access. Instead of cooking fresh food, the government is looking for contractors who would deliver ready-made food to us in plastic dishes.
“Contractors deliver us food that is impossible to eat. It often stinks. People usually choose a couple of pieces that can be eaten and throw away everything else. This forms giant mountains of garbage from unusable food and plastic.
“Nobody sorts this garbage and everything falls into a common pile. We tried to change the food supplier, but the nine-month struggle did not lead to anything. The hotel staff and the manager always find excuses.”
The man added that many people think refugees have large benefits and privileges but this is far from the case.
“Our allowance is £9 a week. You are paid for bus travel only if you are in college, and medical care in the NHS is very difficult or impossible and we cannot pay for any other medical insurance.
“Some people sleep all day, some learn the English language and integrate into the community.
“We are helped by volunteers who organise various events for us. It helps to relieve stress from the fact that you will never return to the places where you grow up.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of those in our care.
“Where concerns are raised we work with the provider to ensure these concerns are addressed, while asylum seekers have access to 24/7 helpline to raise any concerns they have and are able to make formal complaints which will be followed up.
“The use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable – there are currently more than 45,500 asylum seekers in hotels, costing the UK taxpayer £5.6 million a day. The use of hotels is a short-term solution and we are working hard with local authorities to find appropriate accommodation.”