Asylum seekers embrace Paignton safe haven but threaten to protest dire food

As culture shocks go, the arrival of scores of refugees from some of the globe’s worst trouble-spots in a Devon holiday resort must be one of the biggest.

Torbay Council had just a few days’ notice that the Home Office was taking over an 80-bed hotel at Paignton to house asylum seekers who had braved a dangerous journey of thousands of miles across Europe and then the English Channel. Story by DevonOnline.com

The new arrivals are now getting to know the town and seafront, mixing with the holidaymakers exploring the pier, sandy beaches and seafront green.

The hotel where they are staying, once a regular destination for coach parties, was described as “ideally placed” for attractions such as Paignton Zoo and the Dartmouth Steam Railway. It boasted of the “quiet and comfort” of its lounge bar, and a live entertainment venue.

A man in his late 20s, from Eritrea, an East African country devastated by years of civil war, stopped to talk to DevonLive as he was walking with a friend near the seafront. He complained about the food they had been given during their week-long stay, and claimed occupants were going hungry as no one had yet started receiving their £8.24 weekly allowance. The Home Office is paying for full board, with 24-hour on-site support and security.

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The man, dressed in a grey tracksuit, said he was glad to be in England, but those staying at the hotel were short of clothing and food. He described the meals as one or two eggs for breakfast, a single sandwich for lunch, and chicken with rice or macaroni in a box for dinner. The menu was confirmed by another resident, who added that he was grateful for it and happy to be fed.

The first man, who had reached England by boat from Calais, said that the residents had given the authorities a week to sort out the problems or they would hold a protest in the car park outside. 

Dressed in a tracksuit, he added: “We are trying to complain and get this problem to the immigration representative. We are trying to find a solution to help us. There is a shortage of food and clothes. If they don’t solve the problem, we will go outside and shout.”

The refugees, who are barred from working or claiming benefits, are believed to be from countries including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Syria. The man said they had little to do apart from waiting for meals and watching the small TVs in their rooms.

Another resident, a man in his mid-30s who gave his name as Mohammed, was sheltering from the drizzle in a seafront shelter, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette, dressed in what appeared to be matching pyjamas, a black jacket, and flip-flops.

In between smiles, using the Google translation app on his phone, he described himself as “shy”. He spoke of his sadness at leaving behind his wife and young daughter in Sudan, and said he had fled the country after being arrested and threatened with death for taking part in an anti-government protest in the capital Khartoum. He said he had come to England for safety, because his life was at risk in his home country. Continue to read the full story: “Asylum seekers embrace Paignton safe haven but threaten to protest dire food”

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