No, really, it’s not the same as being on an all-inclusive holiday

There have been a couple of shocking stories this week about how asylum seekers have been, however, inadvertently, stigmatised which can lead to them being attacked and intimidated. First we had the Middlesborough “red doors” controversy and then, this week, the appalling news that asylum seekers in a hostel in Caefiff were forced to wear wristbands to access their food.

Newly arrived asylum seekers in the Welsh capital who are housed by Clearsprings Ready Homes, a private firm contracted by the Home Office, are being told that they must wear the wristbands all the time otherwise they will not be fed. The wristbands entitle the asylum seekers, who cannot work and are not given money, to three meals a day.

That practice was quickly stopped when the company was shamed in the press, but I have been concerned to see that some people have been saying that it’s ok to do this to people, because if you’re on an all-inclusive holiday, you have to wear a wristband. Really, it’s so not.

Think about it. If you’re on an all-inclusive holiday, for a start you are reasonably well off. Also the clue is in the word holiday – this is not your normal life. Also, you and everyone else in the resort will be wearing some sort of thing to mark you out as being from some hotel or other. It’s not a big thing. That’s even if you bother to go outside your hotel, which you may well not because you don’t need to.  Also, you have a fair bit of power as a customer in the hotel. If there’s something you don’t like, you can go and complain and, likely as not, someone will sort it out for you. Everything in that place is focused around your enjoyment and pleasure, from the moment you get up in your pristine room and saunter down to a sumptuous breakfast, to your day on a sun-lounger to an evening of sometimes questionable entertainment.  The people who have least power in that situation are the people who serve the customers with endless food and drinks and who earn next to nothing for their work.

Compare and contrast with vulnerable people fleeing for their lives from the sort of destruction and brutality that most of us have never come close to experiencing. They may have fled persecution for being gay or for disagreeing with their government or because their home has been destroyed by Assad or Daesh. They are put up in the most basic of accommodation, are not allowed to work and are made to wear something that immediately singles them out so that if they go outside to, say, take their kids to school, they are instantly recognisable by the tiny minority of racist thugs who would do them harm. They have to take what they are given and even if they had the language skills to complain, their words are likely to be ignored. That’s why they need people to speak up for them, not denigrate them.

We should generally be ashamed of the way our system treats those who seek sanctuary on our shores. The tabloids might give the impression that their lives are easy, but that is far from the truth. What should be happening is that the company who did this should immediately lose their contract and not be eligible for any more public funds.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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13 Comments

  • suzanne fletcher 27th Jan '16 - 2:39pm

    enough to make me despair – but I won’t, i will keep on, and here is why.
    Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. This is the day re remember all those, not just the Jews in the wicked Holocause in the last century, but all who are marked out (not the words marked out) as being different. Different race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, colour, mental health, intelligence, etc. and persecuted.
    Today is also the day we recall how important it is that we stand up for those who have been marked out as different and are being, or threatened with being, persecuted.
    #HMD

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Jan '16 - 3:40pm

    Absolutely right, Suzanne.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Jan '16 - 3:58pm

    The intention of the sub-contractors is probably to prevent a secondary market at low cost. The main contractor or the government should make it clear that the method is unacceptable for the reasons given above.

  • After my surgery I had to wear the hospital wristband until I was discharged. I hated wearing it but had no choice and because of this I feel it’s a far better comparison than holidays or festivals. Was there a reason for me wearing the band? Is there a reason for the asylum seekers wearing a band? Whether the procedure is unacceptable or not the way they have been targeted is far worse than making them identifiable.

  • @DJ _ “the way they have been targeted is far worse than making them identifiable”

    I would agree the real issue here isn’t so much the red door’s and wrist straps, as both are on their own anonymous, but how knowledge of these ‘distinguishing marks’ got out and has been used by some local people. So the fact that 150+ properties distributed across several areas have exactly the same colour front door isn’t the problem, it is the fact that someone (a local) can say on road xyz the asylum seekers occupy the house with the red door, because it is the only house with a red door. Likewise, it takes local knowledge to know that people wearing a particular style of wrist strap – which is probably mostly hidden by shirt sleeves, are asylum seekers.

    I suspect there is a connection between the areas these properties are located in (and hence the streets regularly frequented by asylum seekers) and the incidence of attacks…

  • @Roland
    Wasn’t it the case that the street in M’borough was pretty much boarded up except for the houses that had been renovated specifically for these people? In which case it wouldn’t/won’t matter what colour the doors are (or if they are all the same colour)?

    One telling quote from the article is “…and further stigmatises them in an already very hostile environment, …”. It seems (from my perspective) that all the fuss is about the symptoms (red doors and bands) and not the actual problem, which is where should they be located. IMHO they should be housed in better off areas, they will be seen as less of a threat and should have an easier life.

  • The red doors were painted red twenty years ago.

    Wristbands denoted eligibility for ‘benefits’.

    Really not sharing the collective fit of the vapours here.

  • Roland, half the properties occupied by refugees do not have red doors. Those which do were painted red last century, as should have been clear from the peeling paintwork.

    As DJ indicates, the wrist-bands are far more likely to have been inspired by hospital policy. It’s perfectly reasonable to object to them all the same, but it is not worth considering that they are being targeted because of it. They easily can be concealed under a sleeve and would be apparently only by very close inspection.

    If they – and the Middlesborough residents – are being targeted, it is much more likely because they congregate around locations such as Lynx House. I absolutely convinced that this was prompted by the red door canard.

    Chris, why should they be housed in well-off areas? That implies you think less affluent areas are beneath decent people. It also doesn’t take into account those areas having fewer vacant properties, and those which are being spread out resulting in fragmentation of refugee groups; further alienating them as they are not near compatriots & increasing admin costs as they’d have to travel further for amenities such as meals at Lynx House.

    Plus, if you think the current set-up causes resentment, this would do so more.

  • As DJ indicates, the wrist-bands are far more likely to have been inspired by hospital policy

    Wristbands are a common way of indicating entitlement to free stuff; when I have attended functions at public spaces where some organisation is running a bar tab, wristbands have been used to indicate who is entitled to buy drinks on the tab, for example.

    If not wristbands, how else do people suggest such eligibility be confirmed? Photo ID is the only other way that springs to mind, but that’s a lot more administrative hassle. Wristbands are cheap and work.

  • suzanne fletcher 28th Jan '16 - 2:22pm

    quick comments on some of issues raised.
    some of the TV coverage managed to get some boarded up houses in – but there are not that many! However there would be even more if not used for housing asylum seekers. Also some of the very local shops would not be sustainable if the asylum seekers were not there.
    it is not the issue of the red doors being there in the first place, it is that the landlord paid no heed to the problems they were causing.
    must emphasise that the red doors are not the most important issue in all of this – it is what the media have seized on as being eminently photograpable and a good story for them. It does give the rest fo the world a snaphot of the landord, especially if the Select Committee watched.
    As for the wristbands – a swipe card could be used. discreet and does the job.

  • As for the wristbands – a swipe card could be used. discreet and does the job

    Requires both hardware (the cards, the readers) and software (keeping the database up to date) support.

    So much more expensive than wristbands.

    So not really an option.

  • @Alec 28th Jan ’16 – 10:56am
    Hi Alec, thank you for your question. I’m not a politician so if that was what I felt then I would have said it. I am curious about some of your reasoning, do these prosperous areas not have any amenities that could be used to house asylum seekers? Really?
    I’m sorry to say it sounded rather like a list that would be utilised in a nimby argument.

    Paul Halliday has had an article published today at 5:30 pm, may I suggest that you read the link to the article from Newport. I hadn’t read it before and I don’t live in Newport, but I can certainly get where he is coming from.

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