"I still believe justice will prevail": Park Inn survivors speak
The findings of an independent report into the lockdown treatment of asylum seekers "puts beyond doubt the harm caused to so many people", a campaign group says.
Refugees for Justice, which includes people who have been through the asylum process, engaged Baroness Helena Kennedy to hold an independent inquiry into the use of hotel accommodation for hundreds of people in Glasgow after Covid struck.
Contractor Mears has said that move happened to protect the health of asylum seekers and staff.
However, Kennedy's report questions this and says the prolonged and indefinite use of hotel accommodation harmed the mental and physical health of those placed there.
The report was commissioned when the UK Government did not hold a full public inquiry into the Park Inn hotel incident of summer 2020, when one man, Badreddin Abdalla Adam, attacked several other hotel residents and staff, as well as a police officer, with knives. He was shot dead by Police Scotland and it later emerged that he had contacted authorities more than 70 times over issues relating to his health and accommodation.
Survivors of that incident shared harrowing stories of their ordeals with the inquiry panel and spoke out today as the report was published.
One man, identified as Mo, told how he spent ten days in hospital after Adam cut open his stomach.
Mo was among hundreds of people living in the Park Inn when the incident happened, and says hospital was "paradise" compared to the his hotel room "prison".
Addressing the report launch at the Merchant's House of Glasgow, just a few blocks from where the incident happened, he said: "I said to myself I will never cry towards what happened in Park Inn, because I have you people.
"We are stronger together."
He told the audience he was leaving his room to get food and had taken two steps from his door when Adam struck him with two knives in a struggle that left him with serious injuries.
He lost consciousness but regained this after being taken outside, where other injured men lay. One of those men told rescuers: "You need to take care of Mo, his intestines are out."
He went on: "Someone suffering, struggling, dying, and he said no, help Mo.
"These people are not asylum seekers to me, they are family.
"We are not numbers, we are human beings."
Residents were not allowed to cook and Mo told how the meals at the hotel was so bad that he believed this must be what Scottish people eat, an impression that changed when a Glaswegian woman made him a pot of soup after a chance encounter. He and friends thought it was so delicious that they planned to eke it out for several days, but discovered hotel staff had poured it down the sink.
He said: "They said 'we trashed it'. That's when we realised we were living in a prison."
Mala Jayhindaran was a prominent community leader in Malaysia. She was moved to the Park Inn with her son Shawn Nicholas Fernandez, a former police officer.
They fled following threats and were eventually accommodated in Glasgow's Govan district, where they got on well with neighbours. The mother and son allowed them to dry clothes in their garden and Fernandez walked their dogs.
Jayhindaran was cooking rice and had clothes in the washing machine when she was called at 9am and told she had one hour to get ready to move. She said: "I thought we were going to another house. It was only when we were in the care that we were told that we were going to a hotel. He said we would be staying there, it will be like going for a holiday.
"We didn't want to go, but you can't [argue] against the Home Office so we just kept quiet.
"The hotel they took us to was Park Inn. We are both still badly affected by what happened there."
Jayhindaran went on: "I am trying my best to be how I was before. I used to be a role model for my community. I was a politician.
"I know who I was. Now I am on medication for my mental health."
Fernandez was "one of the first to go down to help" when the attack happened and saw "people screaming" and bleeding. He has since been diagnosed with PTSD and has been waiting for two years for mental health support. He believes violence could have been avoided "if Badreddin had received the mental health support that he needed and people's concerns about him were not brushed under the carpet".
He said: "I am a former police officer, my conscience, my mind, I had to go down. I tried helping two stab victims before police arrived. It will stay with me for the rest of my life."
Fernandez went on: "I still believe justice will prevail and the Home Office will be held accountable."