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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Matthew Weaver

Former Manston asylum seeker sleeping rough pleads for place to stay

Demonstrators hold placards during a protest outside the Manston immigration facility in Kent
Demonstrators hold placards during a protest outside the Manston immigration facility in Kent at the weekend. Photograph: Alberto Pezzali/AP

A Kurdish-Iranian asylum seeker found sleeping rough outside Victoria station in London is pleading for accommodation a week after enduring “horrendous” conditions in Manston immigration centre.

The 27-year-old man, who gave his name as Mamlye, was among about 40 people driven out of the centre on 1 November and left to fend for themselves.

Speaking to the Guardian through an interpreter he said: “My message through you is: please, I beg you to provide somewhere to sleep, so people don’t resort to criminality.”

He added: “We thought the intention was to put us in a hotel, but I have still not been given accommodation. I have been sleeping on the street on cardboard. At the moment I’m on my own, but at first there were others.”

Mamlye was discovered on Tuesday night by Danial Abbas from the charity Under One Sky. Abbas paid £65 out of his own pocket for Mamlye to spend the night in a hotel. Abbas said: “With what he’s gone through, I thought he needed his own space for a night.”

After speaking to the Guardian Mamlye was taken away by police officers. Abbas said: “I’m waiting to hear whether he’s got his accommodation sorted for tonight or not. If he doesn’t I’ve assured him I’ll sort him out again.”

Under One Sky helped secure 11 other asylum seekers hotel accommodation in Norwich. Abbas said: “A lot of the government’s failures seem to be falling on to my shoulders. But our resources are not limitless.”

Mamlye said he had fled Iran because it was a “dictatorship and ruled by despots – they have no respect for human rights especially for Kurds”. He said in early October he tried to cross the Channel in a 9-metre inflatable boat with 50 other people including “babies, men and women, young and old”.

After he was rescued, Mamlye said, he spent the next 23 days in Manston immigration centre with thousands of others. He said: “It was really a horrendous experience. The food was meagre and poor. We couldn’t leave. It was so overcrowded I was put in a tent, and we had to sleep on gym mats. We had to protest and raise our voices to get medical attention for a man who collapsed.”

When he left Manston his confiscated belongings were returned to him in a bin bag. “When we left the camp they said ‘no hotel, we’re just transporting you’.”

He and about 40 others were then taken to Victoria coach station. “When we arrived we didn’t know where we were. There was only a coach driver. He chucked out our stuff and drove off.”

Mamlye has since survived on the good will of strangers. “I found a Kurdish barber shop. I explained my circumstances and they were helpful. They gave me a coat and some jeans.”

He added: “When I came to England, I thought I would get some support, until I could start up a new life, but my treatment here has been very poor. You get frustrated when you don’t know what is awaiting you. It has been a bitter experience.”

Mamlye phoned his mother and sister to tell them he had arrived safely. “I couldn’t tell them about my situation because I don’t want to worry them,” he said.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary has taken urgent decisions to alleviate issues at Manston using all the legal powers available and sourcing alternative accommodation. Thanks to our hard-working staff, Manston remains resourced and equipped to process migrants securely and keep the public safe while we find alternative accommodation as soon as possible.

“The welfare of those in our care is of the utmost importance and we have acted quickly to improve the situation on the ground including bolstering the 24/7 medical facilities already.”

Mamlye said: “If that is their response how come some like me ended up sleeping rough for six days? I need accommodation, somewhere I can sleep safely.

“I hope that I will get accommodation soon, but I called an 0800 helpline for migrants and I haven’t heard anything.”

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