Officials ‘will feel guilt’ over Afghan boy’s death in fall from hotel

Civil servants will “feel guilt and responsibility” forever over the death of a five-year-old Afghan boy who fell from a hotel window, a senior Home Office official has said.

Mohammed Munib Majeedi fell from the window of the Sheffield Metropolitan Hotel in Blonk Street on August 18.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, Emma Haddad, director general of asylum and protection at the Home Office, said the boy’s family had “recently” been moved from Afghanistan by her team.

“We are all heartbroken. We have all been in tears,” Dr Haddad said.

But she also criticised some of the media coverage and a “desire to score political points”, and defended her team’s work.

She wrote in the Telegraph: “Some of the media coverage of the death of the little boy has hurt my team a lot.

“It is totally misleading to suggest that the Home Office does not take our responsibilities towards children in our care seriously.

“And more than that – among the desire to score political points are dedicated civil servants who will feel guilt and responsibility for this tragic death forever.

“Many of us are also parents. We are not faceless bureaucrats with no empathy – the emotions are overwhelming us.”

Dr Haddad said her team has been working “round the clock” to provide safe refuge to people fleeing Afghanistan, an operation she described as “hugely complex and incredibly pressurised”.

She said her staff do not want to use hotels for relocation, but offers of housing have not kept pace with the numbers arriving.

All hotels used by the Home Office must meet “stringent” health and safety checks and provide detailed risk assessments, she said, adding the sites used to accommodate unaccompanied asylum-seeking children have trained support workers available at all times.

She was speaking after claims that asylum-seekers had previously been removed from the hotel involved because it was unfit for refugees to stay in.

Labour MPs in the city demanded a “full, urgent, independent inquiry into the circumstances that led to Mohammed’s death, but also into the placement of vulnerable refugees in this accommodation”.

Shadow frontbencher Louise Haigh, who is MP for Sheffield Heeley, told the PA news agency: “We know that the Home Office placed some refugees there last August, in 2020, and then moved them following concerns about the suitability of that accommodation.

Louise Haigh
Louise Haigh (House of Commons/PA)

“So why vulnerable families from Afghanistan, involving children, were placed in this accommodation again this year is a very serious question that they have to urgently answer.”

It is understood previous concerns surrounded fire safety.

Sheffield City Council confirmed that the Home Office had stopped using the hotel in November.

The Home Office did not deny the claims, but said: “We are extremely saddened by the tragic death of a child at a hotel in Sheffield. The police are providing support to the family while the investigation continues and we are providing accommodation and support.

“We are absolutely committed to ensuring that Afghan refugees are appropriately accommodated and supported and we are working hard with local authorities to deliver this.”

The Refugee Council has also called for a review of accommodation offered to people fleeing the Taliban.