A city charity has called on the Scottish Government to investigate why hundreds of asylum seekers were moved from their homes into hotels during the coronavirus lockdown - where it has been claimed "no social distancing" was in place.

Over the course of ten days last month, single men, women, families and pregnant women were moved by accommodation provider Mears Group - which is subcontracted by the Home Office - into city centre hotels.

In an open letter to the First Minister, Positive Action in Housing has stated that asylum seekers were only given a few minutes to pack their belongings and then herded into small vans. 

The charity are demanding answers as to why the hundreds of asylum seekers were moved from their homes into "crowded hotels", where they say social distancing guidelines cannot be followed due to cramped conditions.

Glasgow Times:

READ MORE: Anger as 300 asylum seekers moved into Glasgow hotels 'with no social distancing'

The letter reads: "Letter to the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon asking the Scottish Government to investigate why the Mears Group, in Glasgow, the largest and most densely populated city in Scotland, forcibly moved up to 400 vulnerable men, women and children from their homes into hotels.

"This happened in April, during the Lockdown, when non-essential travel was forbidden and millions were told to “stay home, stay safe”.

"Asylum seekers say they were given only a few minutes to pack, and then herded into small vans, 4 or 5 at a time. They were not asked if they had symptoms – they could be asymptomatic and therefore at increased risk to other asylum seekers and the public. Nor was any testing carried out.

"New research shared by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention suggests air conditioners can be a transporter of viruses.

"The problem is even greater in hotels where windows can’t open and poor, contaminated indoor air can’t escape, and if filters are not changed regularly

"We have heard complaints from asylum seekers that they can’t open the windows of their hotel rooms to get fresh air.

"Levels of depression are increasing. Many people are survivors of trauma and torture and suffering mental health problems because of the length of time they have been in the asylum system.

"People are growing increasingly desperate.

"We find these testimonies disturbing, hotels are supposed to be closed during the Lockdown.

"Hotel employees may also be subjected to an increased viral load in the workplace and then must go back out into the general community for a variety of essential purposes.

"There are now several hotspots of potential Covid-19 outbreaks all over the city. Yet this was no homelessness situation where people had to be moved out of their homes.

"Several accommodation providers claim that they were told by agents for Mears Group at the start of April that their flats were no longer needed because people were being moved into hotels, and they would not be paid for the remainder of their contracts.

"Immigration may not be a devolved matter, but the consequences of this particularly repellent reserved policy decision (if that’s indeed what it is, rather than simple greed by a Home Office approved contractor) extend to potentially harming the native, indigenous, host Scottish population.

"The public deserve to know why Mears Group forcibly moved 400 vulnerable people at very short notice during a Lockdown out of their homes and into crowded hotels (where social distancing is impossible and there is increased risk of catching the Coronavirus in crowded dining rooms and lifts)."

A wave of shock and anger came on Sunday after the death of Adanan Olbeh was revealed to have taken place at a Mears-supported hotel in the city. 

Glasgow Times:

READ MORE: Adnan Olbeh: Family plea for asylum seeker’s body to be returned for funeral

While reports initially suggested he had taken his own life, police are treating the death as unexplained and friends say it may have been accidental.

A Mears Group spokesman said: "We are deeply saddened to confirm the death of an asylum-seeker who had been in Mears supported accommodation.

"Mears are working with the Home Office to contact the asylum-seeker’s family before disclosing more information. The cause of death has not been determined and we encourage the media not to speculate at this time.

"Once Covid-19 restrictions were announced by the UK and Scottish Government, Mears considered how best to house asylum-seekers in Glasgow who were at initial accommodation stage.

"Our goal has always been to ensure the safety of asylum-seekers in our care and our staff as well as helping to prevent further spread of the disease.

"Good quality hotel accommodation can ensure a safer environment and greatly reduce the spread of Covid-19 among asylum seekers in Glasgow.

"In the hotels Mears can best communicate social distancing procedures and supporting people to observe the regulations.

Glasgow Times:

READ MORE: Home secretary warned action needed to avoid asylum seekers destitution crisis on Glasgow streets

"These measures have been in place for the last six weeks. In that time we have zero cases of Covid-19 in our current hotel population. We believe that is because the measures we have taken are working.

"We understand that this has been a difficult time for some asylum seekers as it has been a difficult time for everyone as we all have to make adjustments to keep ourselves and others safe.

"We have worked to make asylum seekers stay as comfortable as possible given the circumstances. The hotel rooms, which are at a 4-star standard, all have private en suite bathrooms, TVs and wi-fi internet access.

"A small number of those placed in hotels made reasonable requests to be moved to another location and these requests were accommodated by Mears.

"These are only temporary measures and when restrictions are lifted, Mears will be housing people in to more long term accommodation."

Glasgow Times:

Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, said: “I am very concerned at the current situation and have raised these concerns with the operator Mears and the UK Government - which has the full responsibility over asylum accommodation and support. 

“The health and wellbeing of everyone living in Scotland must be protected during this public health crisis, including people who have sought a place of safety here.

“I have made clear to Mears that asylum accommodation, including hotels, must be operated in line with the requirements of public health guidance to ensure physical distancing and protect people seeking asylum and those that support them. 

“I have raised with the Home Office a number of issues affecting people seeking asylum during the pandemic, particularly the lack of financial support for people. This is an issue that is not acceptable and UK Ministers must urgently address.”