Jail officer who fled hitmen feels like a prisoner after living in hotel for eight months
A MAN who fled his Caribbean home after being blacklisted by criminals says he feels like a prisoner after living in a Gloucestershire hotel for the past eight months.
David Smith, not his real name, flew to the UK on Christmas Day last year. The former prison officer had to flee his home country after criminals revealed his name and address and he was blacklisted.
After two of his colleagues died, Mr Smith decided to leave and seek asylum in the UK. On arrival at Gatwick Airport, he introduced himself to immigration officials and applied for asylum.
“I was a prison guard and the crime rate where I come from is very high. My name and other officers’ names were blacklisted by prisoners. They have already killed two of my colleagues and they were shooting at our houses.
“Christmas was a very difficult time for us. When your full name and full address appear on a hit list, you have no choice but to leave.
“They can find you and kill you at any time. It was very dangerous for me and my family and I had to do the logical thing and leave.
However, since then, Mr Smith says he has been stuck in what he thought was short-term accommodation.
He lives in a hotel room in Gloucestershire, gets three meals a day and £8 a week and says his situation is really starting to affect his mental health.
“Nothing has changed since December. They put me in temporary accommodation which is supposed to last a few weeks to a month before being placed in longer term accommodation.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve only been in temporary accommodation which is supposed to be short term. While I’m here I can’t cook anything, I can’t do anything myself, it’s just three meals a day and the food sucks.
“The hotel staff treat you as they wish and you cannot leave the hotel for more than 24 hours. It is as if you were a prisoner but you are not a prisoner. You can go wherever you want, but the Ministry of Interior insists that you return within 24 hours.
“If my asylum process takes a year and a half or almost two years, do they really expect me to stay in this hotel for that long?
“It’s very frustrating to be in this room all day. Maybe you have friends who live in England and you would like to visit them for three or four days and come back.
“I was told that the hotel accommodation would only be a temporary installation. It’s not supposed to last that long. You earn £8 a week and you really can’t do anything with it.
“I wasn’t running away, I would give the address of where you are going. It’s just something to help your sanity. Being in this room all day really gets to you.
“I find the way they treat us extremely inhuman. I did not do anything wrong. I came to seek refuge because my life was in grave danger.
“I bought a plane ticket and came here legally, so why am I being treated like a prisoner. The Home Office has no idea what it’s like to sit in a hotel all the day of doing nothing, watching your life go to waste while waiting for a decision.
“I get extremely depressed. Sometimes I wonder if it would have been a better option if I had stayed in my country facing death because that’s not living, it’s just wasting away for a decision that doesn’t is not even guaranteed.
“I understand the backlog of asylum seekers to process and the waiting list is extremely long, I understand that everything is a process, but what I can’t understand is that I just want to rest the head for a few days without worrying about losing hotel accommodation or feeling threatened by not being able to leave the hotel for more than 24 hours.”
A Home Office spokesperson said asylum seekers are provided with safe and secure accommodation funded by the UK taxpayer.
And no one is being held in their accommodation and asylum seekers are free to come and go as they please, they said.
“Many factors can delay and contribute to the processing time of asylum claims. Some applications have complex needs, such as backup issues or when they had a modern slavery request attached to their application.
“We therefore take these facts fully into account when prioritizing and progressing pending asylum claims, which may result in longer wait times for some.”
The Home Office says requests from asylum seekers to spend the night elsewhere will still be considered, but anyone found to be absent from the initial accommodation will be considered as such.
The Home Office also says it is recruiting more decision-makers and improving their use of digital technology to simplify case processing and speed up processing times.
They say the new plan for immigration will fix the broken asylum system to make it fair but firm, allowing them to offer support to those who need it most while sending back those who don’t have a real right to stay in the UK.
Mr. Smith’s real name and country of origin have not been included in this article for his safety.