Asylum-seekers in UK forced to wear wristbands to get food

Refugees Made to Wear Wristbands
Refugees Made to Wear Wristbands

A company providing housing and meals for asylum-seekers in Cardiff, Wales have dropped a controversial practice of requiring people to wear brightly colored wristbands to collect food after outrage over the practice.

Lynx House, a privately run company contracted by the UK Home Office, required asylum-seekers living on the property to wear a brightly colored wristband to collect meals daily.

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The practice was reportedly halted on Monday, but reporters spotted asylums-seekers still wearing the wristbands.

After news of the wristbands broke, Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones contacted the Home Office on Monday to register serious concerns over the use of the wristbands.

"I am appalled some asylum seekers in Cardiff have been asked to wear wristbands in order to access food," said Jones in a statement. "This is completely unacceptable and goes against everything we stand for as a nation."

Those who chose not to wear the wristband were reportedly refused food, according to The Guardian. Others were told they would be reported to the government for failing to comply.

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Those who apply for asylum in the UK are unable to work, and during this waiting period they are provided with three meals per day by the government.

Some of the asylum-seekers said they were happy to wear the wristbands to receive aid. However, other detailed harrowing experiences. Eric Ngalle, a 36-year-old former asylum-seeker, spent a month in Lynx House in Cardiff and told The Guardian it was "one of the most horrible experiences" of his life.

"I hated wearing the wristbands and sometimes refused to wear them and was turned away from food," Ngalle said. "If we refused to wear the wristbands we were told we would be reported to the Home Office. Some staff implemented this policy in a more drastic way than others."

Ngalle also detailed how those living in Lynx House walk about 10 minutes to the area where they get food, and because they were easily identifiable with their wristbands, he said they sometimes faced harassment.

"On the road we had to walk down there is often heavy traffic. Sometimes drivers would see our wristbands, start honking their horns and shout out of the window, 'Go back to your country.' Some people made terrible remarks to us," Ngalle said.

Labour MP Jo Stevens said she contacted the management company to voice her concern, as well as the Home Office after finding out about the situation.

"It flies in the face of the overwhelming spirit of generosity and kindness shown for a long time by Cardiffians," Stevens tweeted.

The wristbands drew parallels to another controversial practice in Middlesbrough in which the doors of asylum-seekers were painted red. Those living in the homes felt it made them a target for discrimination.

The homes are owned by property company Jomast, a subcontractor for global security group G4S, which holds the Home Office asylum contract for northeast England. G4S said it will be repainting the doors.

In the UK, the work being done to re-house asylum-seekers is often contracted out to a private company. In the Lynx House wristband case, Clearsprings Ready Homes was responsible for managing the property.

While many are happy to see the practice discontinued, questions remain over how the government is working to prevent situations like this from happening again.

Mashable reached out to Clearsprings Ready Homes for comment but has yet to receive a reply.

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