Home Office contractor gives children hotel food containing worms | Immigration and asylum

Children at a Home Office hotel unwittingly ate worms that were in food provided to them by government contractors, the Guardian has learnt.

A four-year-old boy, not realizing that his meal of fish and chips contained worms, began vomiting soon after he started to eat it. Paramedics were called and the boy was taken to hospital.

His father said he experienced the sickness along with a fever for three days and that other family members who ate the same meal experienced similar symptoms. The family have asked not to be identified.

They were being accommodated in a hotel in the Midlands when the incident happened last month and have subsequently been rehoused by the Home Office.

Environmental health officers determined the insects to be parasitic round worms. A council environmental health officer who was alerted to the issue said cooking generally killed these worms. “However, I appreciate that it is an unpleasant experience to come across one in your meal,” he added.

He said he would visit the hotel to carry out spot checks.

The family made a formal complaint to the Home Office contractor Serco. In its response a Serco official wrote: “I can confirm there was an insect of some kind in the food and the hotel were made aware of it at the time. Apologies were given at the time and the housing officers will quality-check the food before service.”

The father of the family said the incident was very distressing. “The food in the hotel was very bad and we had to call the paramedics after my four-year-old son ate the meal and started vomiting,” he said.

It is one of a raft of problems identified in Home Office hotel accommodation for asylum seekers. A recent report from the Refugee Council found that hotel use by the Home Office for asylum seekers tripled last year and that many occupants raised concerns about poor conditions.

Asylum seekers have raised concerns with the Guardian about family members accommodated separately in different hotels. In one case an asylum seeker was separated from her husband and two children aged five and 12.

The father of that family told the Guardian: “Our children need their mother very much. We have applied to Migrant Help [a Home Office helpline for asylum seekers] for our family to be accommodated together in the same hotel but there was no response.”

Home Office sources said: “Now this case has been brought to our attention we will work to house them together.”

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A third family of asylum seekers, who are accommodated in a hotel on England’s south coast by the Home Office contractors Clearsprings, complained that hotel staff came into their rooms and filmed some of their possessions without their permission.

“They are abusing our rights,” said the father. Home Office sources disputed that they had entered the family’s room without permission and said the visit was part of “standard welfare checks”.

In relation to the worms incident, Jenni Halliday, Serco’s contract director for asylum seeker accommodation, said: “Clearly this food is unacceptable and should never have been served to the asylum seekers at the hotel. We have apologized to the family concerned and we are working with the hotel management to ensure that all food meets the required standards.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Asylum seekers are provided safe, secure accommodation funded by the UK taxpayer. We expect high standards from all our providers and will look into this specific case.”

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