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Refugee on 28th day of hunger strike accuses Serco of ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ of asylum-seekers

A REFUGEE on the 28th day of a hunger strike has demanded an end to the “inhuman and degrading treatment” of asylum-seekers in hotels run by disgraced security firm Serco.

Backed by a campaigning refugee support group in Manchester, Shay Babagar told an online media conference today that residents suffered poor hygiene, infections, lack of basic toiletries, inadequate food and abuse by staff.

He said he went on hunger strike in desperation on November 2 after complaints were ignored — and will end it only if his demands for change are met.

He said: “I am seeking to end, or at least reduce, the harm caused to my family by the inhuman and degrading treatment to which we and others have been subjected by Serco.”

He also said that after he was hospitalised due to the effects of the hunger strike, both he and his wife, who suffers Type 1 diabetes, were arrested in their hospital beds by Greater Manchester Police.

He is currently “sofa surfing” in Manchester at the homes of volunteers from the group backing his demands for action, Rapar (Refugee and Asylum-Seeker Participatory Action Research). 

Mr Babagar is seeking political asylum after fleeing Pakistan where he was involved in political activity. In June he was joined by his wife and child.

Since August, the family has been housed in a Serco-run hotel in Stockport in Greater Manchester.

The hotel is one of 106 Serco runs on behalf of the Home Office, which jointly house 36,000 asylum-seekers.

Speaking through an interpreter, Mr Babagar said: “It is extremely bad smelling.

“People had cases of itch on their skin and there is no cleanliness or hygiene in that hotel. We had to get water from the bathroom. They did not even provide us with water. We didn’t get any toiletries like soap or shampoo. It can take three weeks. They keep telling us ‘it will come next week, it will come next week.’

“There is no play area for the children.

“There is very inhumane behaviour by staff there. For each thing you are shouted at and put down as if you were not even human.”

He said when his wife complained that her traditional clothing had disappeared she was treated with “abuse and humiliation.”

Mr Babagar said he called a helpline for Serco residents “at least 20 times” to no effect and went on hunger strike in protest.

Mr Babagar’s health is being monitored by a medical expert. 

He said his hunger strike will continue until conditions in Serco-run hotels are changed, residents have an effective reporting system — without retribution — and until his family is rehoused “in reasonable conditions.”

Stockport Council said earlier this month that it had “concerns” about conditions in the hotel including an outbreak of scabies.

Council leader Mark Hunter said the council had organised medical treatment for residents’ scabies.

Serco, the Home Office and Greater Manchester Police were asked to comment.

A Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman said: “We do not comment on ongoing investigations and all we can say is that GMP officers responded to reports of a crime and acted accordingly.”

She said Mr Babagar’s case “is primarily being dealt with by the Home Office.”

Serco “strenuously refuted” all the allegations. 

The Home Office said when complaints were raised earlier this month that it had investigated them and that “having liaised with Serco and fully investigated the claims, we do not recognise them at all and they do not have any factual standing.”
 

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