Hostel for refugees is set to close
EVENING CHRONICLE (Newcastle, UK)
A controversial hostel for asylum seekers is closing. Asylum seekers and refugees are to be moved from Angel Heights as its owners sell up. The old nurses’ home in Westgate Road, Newcastle, was bought by the Angel Group in April 2000 and transformed into a hostel. Angel Heights provides 200 rooms but this year only 70 women asylum seekers are on full-board and the owners have decided to sell up. Shortly after it opened Angel Heights hit the headlines when asylum seekers rioted after having their pocket money slashed. Council bosses, who transported around 200 refugees from Kent to the hostel cut the refugees’ weekly allowances from 7 to 5. It was claimed they caused more than 600- worth of damage. They also staged another violent protest into conditions they were living in. Now the women, some of whom have lived at the hostel for nearly two years, are being split up and sent across Tyneside and perhaps even further afield. “Providing Homes ‘s motto but most of these women do not know where their new homes will be. The women were told to pack their bags this week and some were taken to Gateshead to be shown their proposed new home. Senot Mels, 25, from Eritrea, who has been living at the hostel for four months, said: “I have been ill the past few months so I am worried about leaving the hostel and moving somewhere that is dirty and smelly. But they told us that we don’t have any choice because we are asylum seekers.” The women are refusing to sign a contract for their new rooms. Monica Bishop, area manager of North of England Refugee Service, said: “We have had problems for a long time with Angel Heights. The trouble is these women could be moved anywhere in the country.” The Angel Group earns millions annually through Government contracts for housing asylum seekers. It has had contracts with the National Asylum Support Service [NASS] for five years, mainly in Yorkshire and the North East. Although Newcastle City Council is not directly involved in the issue of housing asylum seekers, West End city councillor, Sir Jeremy Beecham said: “I am very concerned. The closure is very worrying for the asylum seekers. I believe it must be a breach of contract with asylum seekers.” The NASS said Angel Group contacted it to say it wanted to cease housing asylum seekers. NASS is now working with the Angel Group to find alternative accommodation in the region. The Angel Group declined to comment.