‘Iraq and Hull are the same’ says disabled war-fleeing refugee in council house

A refugee who fled the war-torn Middle East claims living in Hull is just as bad.

Intesar Hassan, 55, and her four children were relocated to the East Yorkshire city by the United Nations in 2012 after fleeing deadly conflict in both Iraq and Syria.

But the mum says she's now bed-bound after enduring painful health troubles and squalor in her UK home.

She told HullLive: "When I think about Iraq and Hull, they are the same to me.

"When I came here my health conditions worsened and are getting worse day by day in this house.

"I cannot walk, talk or eat due to the conditions I am living in. All night long I worry about the house."

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She went on: "I open the window at night because I can't breathe from the damp inside the house. This situation is reminding me and re-traumatising me from past experiences."

Intesar says her family was placed by the Refugee Council into their "freezing" private-rented house eight years ago and claims no maintenance work has been done since.

"I fell down the stairs in the house which led to me needing to have my gall bladder operated on," she said.

She added that she has "letters from Castle Hill Hospital, GPs and occupational therapists which recommends I am placed into a new house suitable for disabled people, but I have waited on Hull City Council's housing list since the day I arrived in Hull".

Intesar, who uses a wheelchair, is now unable to climb the stairs so is forced to wash in the kitchen sink.

"Due to forcing myself up and down the stairs in this house I developed a hernia and piles problem, which in turn forced me to need to facilitate the bathroom more often," she said.

"To make matters worse I went on to develop a breathing problem which the GP has said is an allergic reaction to the damp in the house."

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The family says the housing benefit paid directly to the landlord no longer covers the total rent after it was reduced, leaving them thousands of pounds in arrears.

Speaking of the mounting debt, Intesar said: "I am a disabled woman. If we are removed from the property where can we go?

"Is this worse than Syria? We were brought here to a safe and legal country but everywhere I go I am turned away. This house is unsafe.

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"We thought we would be protected but we have instead been exposed to more hostility.

"As an ill woman I can't go out and enjoy life, but inside the house, my life is even more miserable. I'd prefer to die but my worry is what would happen to my children."

Intesar's landlord told the paper: "The flat was in immaculate condition upon the tenants' arrival. I know it is mouldy but they haven't let us in to do maintenance.

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"We have been doing maintenance on a regular basis until to 2017 until for some reason we were refused access and we haven't been back and felt intimidated.

"When we get in there we will do a full refurbishment. Exhaustive measures were put in place to ensure the gas certificate was instated in 2020 as it is a legal requirement for us.

"They have racked up over £5,000 in arrears and they have allowed the housing benefit to be cancelled. They have told me they will be gone by the end of the month."

A Hull City Council spokesman said: "The council's environmental health team has made contact with the family with a view to assessing the house, however, the family has denied environmental health access to the property.

"Information has been provided in Arabic and the environmental health team has subsequently worked with the landlord of the property and the family's support worker to try to provide the advice and support needed.

"The council allocates council properties based on need, and looks to support those with the most pressing needs, whilst taking into account factors such as arrears and previous tenancy issues."

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