The plate in a Home Office hotel
Lizzie writes of daily life in a Home Office hotel. It is not at all luxurious and very tough at Christmas.
Life in a Home Office Hotel is not the same as living in a house. You feel very isolated and feel as if you are living in another world from everyone else in the UK.
We all stay in our rooms every day. The only time you go out is for meal time, to go to a college or centre that you go to, to go for a walk or when it is the day you are given your meagre allowance. You communicate mostly by mobile phone with people you know in the hotel or you occasionally meet them in the kitchen.
Most of us have to share a room and that is very hard and stressful for both of you because you are complete strangers so there are always arguments. Some are even sharing a room with three or four people. I was sharing at first when I moved in with a lady who couldn’t speak English and I can’t speak French. I was scared because I was rushed into the hotel without any notice that I was going to be moved into a hotel and it was my first time ever having to share a room. That was very difficult. Then she left and another lady came and that was torture. She would be talking loudly on her phone at 4 am in the morning and watching some scarey movie all night on her laptop very loudly. When I talked to her about it, she would open the door at 5 AM in the morning,scream and shout down the corridor and ask me if I think I owned the hotel. Then she left one day, when I came back to our room, her stuff had gone. I do not know what happened to her. I had some medical issues and I went to the GP and he wrote me a medical report and it turned out I had an illness. So, I was moved to my own room and that was a big relief.
The food here is the same every day not and not suitable for my condition. Bread and cheese, fruit, yoghurt,mcorn flakes and Coco pops for breakfast. From last month occasionally they are giving us boiled eggs. It was so good taste to boiled eggs again. For lunch it is rice, roast potatoes and chicken. Dinner is the same thing for the seven days of the week. Some days you will get beef or fish and chips. When there are different foods, the queue is very long and they ration the food so you finish eating and you are still hungry. I normally keep some stuff in my room because I can’t stand for long in the queue and if you want toast, it is the same, waiting in the queue.
The Home Office gives you an allowance of £9 .10 a week which isn’t enough to buy anything or even to pay for travel to see or meet with friends. The hotel is so far away so it is very costly to see friends regularly.
This year, I spent my first Christmas day in a hotel. It was so different compared to all the Christmases that I had in this country. I didn’t wake up to turkey roasting in the oven, no Christmas songs playing on the radio and presents under the tree or left in a sack outside my door as if Santa Claus came on Christmas Eve. It was very quiet, I didn’t see anyone when I went to the kitchen. There wasn’t anything exciting happening, it was just another normal day and breakfast and lunch was still the same. For dinner, we had roast chicken with a different part of the chicken that I have never see them cook here before. I was lucky because my former host invited me for a mini-Christmas dinner a few days before Christmas and gave me a hamper with stuff for Christmas. So, I decorated my room and celebrated by myself and some friends gave me gifts and cards. Lots of people were very sad because they didn’t get any presents this year and they normally do. Santa Claus didn’t come down the chimney of the Home Office hotel with gifts for Refugee or Migrant children seeking Asylum as he would for a child who has a home and isn’t seeking Asylum.
The meagre allowance was paid on Christmas Day on a day when everything is closed. So, there wasn’t any shopping on Christmas Eve because there wasn’t any money. Friends from my life before gave me an oyster card and some money for traveling over Christmas and that was how I managed to go out on Christmas Eve and to go to the carol service with my friend.
This should be for a very short time but the Home Office has people living here for two years before contacting them for their second interview. I have been living in the hotel now for almost nine months without any response about when my case for Long Residency after many years of living in this country will be resolved.
It is very frustrating just sitting in this hotel for so long doing nothing when I know I could be contributing so much to society.
If you would like to offer support to refugees and asylum seekers, check out local charities and
To find out more about the realities of migration, buy a copy of Hear Our Stories, an anthology of writings on migration: Hear Our Stories: An Anthology of Writings on Migration (victorinapress.com)