SITTING on a torn pool table, a group of Afghan teenagers chat in the shabby hall as two young refugees bang on the ivory keys of a detuned grand piano.
This is the scene of the Grand Hotel Scarborough, once described as “Europe’s finest hotel,” but now home to 150 of the 20,000 Afghan migrants the government has pledged to shelter after fleeing the Taliban.
Operation Warm Welcome was launched by the government in August to help refugees who had risked their lives working with British forces in their home countries to rebuild their lives in the UK.
Afghan Resettlement Minister Victoria Atkins said at the time: “Operation Warm Welcome is a huge effort to ensure that those fleeing Afghanistan are able to find a new life in the UK. .
Yet the reality of the conditions they discovered in Britain has left some Afghans so distraught that they want to return home.
The gruesome state of the Grand, once visited by warlord Winston Churchill, prompted the local council to speak with owner Britannia Hotels Group.
Britannia has been criticized on several occasions for the poor condition of its hotels and was recently voted UK’s worst chain for the eighth year in a row.
The appalling condition of its once proud Scarborough site is beyond doubt.
After I booked a room, I was assigned one on the ground floor.
Brown sewage poured through the tub stopper whenever the toilet flushed and the bathroom floor was covered in dirt.
Outside, buckets were placed in the hallways to catch water dripping from the ceiling and a team of exterminators arrived on Tuesday to catch a live rat in the boiler room.
The distinctive V-shaped hotel in North Yorkshire, designed in honor of Queen Victoria, is a listed building with a proud history.
Among the guests were the Prince of Wales, later crowned King Edward VIII, Labor Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and Winston Churchill, who attended for a Conservative Party conference.
But on the comparison site Tripadvisor, 3,965 customers ranked it in the lowest ranking of “terrible”. One customer compared it to a “third world hellhole” in an online review.
Refugee Izmir, 36, father of four, said: “I had a good life in Afghanistan until the Taliban took power. I don’t want to complain but I have been here for a month and it is not easy.
When The Sun on Sunday stayed at the hotel this week, we found out that the new arrivals had been separated from UK guests.
A UK resident said: “Putting poor Afghan refugees in this place is downright shameful. It’s anything but a warm welcome. I’m sorry for them. “
Many Afghans stationed in Scarborough courageously aided our troops in the battle against the Taliban. Now they are gathering in clusters outside the hotel, awaiting news of their next accommodation.
The reviews for the hotel are so bad that the website recently suspended postings on The Grand.
A music tour director said of his recent stay: “It makes Fawlty Towers look like the Ritz.”
During my visit, young refugees were riding scooters in the corridors.
Young mothers dressed in traditional Afghan clothing pushed strollers around the lobby as they tried to calm their screaming babies.
Others would sit idly by, listening to music through headphones or blasting Middle Eastern songs on cell phones.
Afghans, many of whom have lived here for almost two months, enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hotel’s Premier restaurant, which seats 60 amidst tired-looking golden mirrors and rugs once mellow reds.
Grilled meat, naan bread, and pulao rice are cooked by a dedicated chef, while regular customers are offered a buffet at Harbor Lights Restaurant, one floor below.
At 8 a.m., buses arrive to take some of the young children – dressed in local school uniforms – to classes. Yet despite assurances that the refugees would be integrated and give English lessons, children in school uniforms were seen wandering aimlessly around the hotel on Tuesday at noon.
The older refugees were called into a meeting room, where they were given instructions on how to get Covid injections, medical care and English lessons.
A charity worker gave cell phones to three young adults.
Izmir recounted how he fled Paghman in August and said he had been living in the hotel for a month, with no idea when he would get a permanent home.
FAWLTY TOWERS LOOK LIKE RITZ
Guests who attempt to strike up a friendly conversation with the refugees are immediately attacked by a team of uniformed police and security guards.
Julie Carvell, 55, runs the Precious Little Things antique store just steps from the Grand. She is angry that the Britannia group did not spend more to refurbish it.
She said: “It’s a real shame because it was a beautiful hotel.
“The guests are having a terrible time and while we wanted to help the refugees, accommodating them here made it worse. “
And she said, “I spoke to a guest who asked for his money back because the elevators were broken and his wife is disabled. The hotel refused.
Regular guest Anna Fella, 68, has been visiting the hotel for years and paid £ 132 for a three night stay this week, including breakfast and dinner.
Anna, from Leeds, said: “I don’t know why I keep coming back. The food was really good, but now the meat is overcooked and the vegetables are soggy.
“I came here in August and paid extra for a suite, but you couldn’t use the jacuzzi and water was leaking from the bathroom ceiling. This time the room is better but it no longer looks like it used to be.
“Last night I went to the bar for a quiet drink and there were about nine kids running around.
“It’s not the refugees’ fault, they’ve just been put here. I’m sorry for them that they were put here.
LEAKED INTO THE SEWER
Gianna Gibson, 28, is deputy manager of the Dickens Bar & Inn across the street and has claimed guests at Scarborough Grand often begged her for a room after they fled in disgust.
She said: “It’s sad because the hotel is the face of Scarborough and the more people who stay there and have a bad experience, the less likely they are to return.
“I have heard people say their rooms are dirty and when they complained the staff promised to clean them but never did. But if the hotel doesn’t improve, the city’s reputation will collapse and die.
“It’s so bad. In my mind, this is not a warm welcome for refugees.
The £ 200million Operation Warm Welcome aims to ‘ensure that Afghans arriving in the UK receive the vital support they need to rebuild their lives, find work, continue their education and integrate into their communities local ”.
The government has pledged at least £ 12million to prioritize additional school places for migrants, provided £ 3million in additional funding to the NHS for refugees to get health care and scramble for their guarantee around 10,000 homes.
They were also promised unlimited leave to stay in the country as well as support to help them learn English and become independent.
The Sun on Sunday has contacted Britannia Hotels Group and the Home Office for comment.
The weather has not been nice
THE Grand Hotel Scarborough opened in 1867, overlooking the coast of the spa town of South Bay.
Hull architect Cuthbert Brodrick designed the Grand with time as a theme.
Four towers represent the seasons, its 12 floors the months of the year, 52 chimneys the weeks, and there were originally 365 rooms for each day of the year.
The hotel was badly damaged during World War I when a German naval bombardment destroyed its restaurant in December 1914.
A £ 100,000 renovation followed and in 1952 Winston Churchill, in his second term as Prime Minister, stayed there for the Conservative Party conference.
After the 1980 siege of the Iranian Embassy in South Kensington, London, the hotel was used for secret training exercises by the SAS.
The Butlins holiday camp company bought the hotel in 1978 and reduced the capacity to 280 rooms.
Britannia Hotels took over the Grand in 2004. The economy chain operates 61 hotels across the country.