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Asylum Seekers Hunger Strike Shows UK’s Disregard To Their Mental And Physical Health

The hunger strike undertaken by a group of asylum seekers in the UK to protest inadequate food supplies and lengthy asylum procedures should raise attention towards the UK government’s little regard for their physical and mental health, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said in a statement today.

Asylum seekers housed in a hotel in Reading have been recently protesting the "airline-like" low-quality meals, which they complain are unvaried, unhealthy and provided in too small quantities. The asylum seekers are also protesting the fact that their asylum claims are not proceeding, forcing many of them to be stuck in their rooms for over eight months.

A 24-year-old asylum seeker housed at the Reading’s hotel, Salahe Lakhdar, claimed that, due to inadequate food of poor quality, he and others have experienced weight loss and some people are having kidney problems, while many others have ended up in hospital “with very bad conditions and medical problems”. Moreover, his asylum claim has been pending for over 13 months, with no updates at all.

Like in Reading, a growing number of asylum seekers in different parts of the UK have been complaining about the housing conditions and the inadequacy of food provided. A woman housed in London claimed her young daughter had been having suicidal thoughts as a result of miserable food. "She hasn't eaten healthy food for over five months - no vegetables, no fresh milk, no cheese, no egg, no fish” she said.

The human right to adequate food is of crucial importance for the enjoyment of all rights and is particularly enshrined in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which UK is bound since 1976.

According to ICESCR General Comment No. 12, the right to adequate food implies “the availability of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances, and acceptable within a given culture” and “the accessibility of such food in ways that are sustainable and that do not interfere with the enjoyment of other human rights”.

“Food is a meaningful lens showing the degree of hospitality, or inhospitality, of a place. The poor quantity, variety and quality of food provided in different reception centers in UK make asylum seekers remember their neglected position at every meal” said Michela Pugliese, Legal Researcher at Euro-Med Monitor, “After months and months of being disregarded and stuck in a limbo, asylum seekers are just asking for some solid consideration”.

Euro-Med Monitor calls on the UK to ensure that food provided in reception facilities fulfils the standards required by Article 11 of the ICESCR, particularly “a mix of nutrients for physical and mental growth, development and maintenance, and physical activity that are in compliance with human physiological needs”; to guarantee specific attention on dietary diversity and appropriate food consumption of children, young adults, people with health conditions, and pregnant or breastfeeding women; and to respect asylum seekers’ right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time, as enshrined in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, not to have unduly lengthy asylum procedures that leave them in a state of prolonged uncertainty.

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