Northern Ireland

Asylum seeker 'left in flooded Belfast flat'

A kitchen ceiling has collapsed after flooding. Image copyright PPR
Image caption The fire service switched off the water supply to the Belfast flat above the asylum seeker's

A housing management firm is investigating after the kitchen ceiling of an asylum seeker's Belfast flat collapsed because of flooding.

The asylum seeker from southern Africa said she told the firm, Mears, about the leak three days before the ceiling collapsed.

A video posted on social media showed water pouring through the ceiling.

Mears, a housing and social care provider, said it was investigating and would take "any action that is needed".

The resident has since been housed in emergency accommodation while repairs are carried out.

'I was in shock'

The resident said the ceiling had started leaking two weeks ago.

She tried to contact Mears about the issue last Thursday, but could not get through on telephone numbers which had been provided.

After spending four hours on hold, the resident got through to a call centre on Friday and was told her report had been lodged.

But when no action was taken, the resident said she was left with no choice but to call the fire service on Sunday, describing the leak as like "a waterfall".

Fire officers went to the flat on Sunday evening and shut the water off in an unoccupied flat above, where it is believed a pipe had burst.

Image copyright PPR
Image caption The water was coming from a burst pipe in the flat above

It is understood that property is also owned and managed by Mears.

"Who waits on a call to be answered for four hours 10 minutes," the resident told BBC News NI's Good Morning Ulster programme.

"The system is not working, they have to do something about it.

"I was in shock."

Mears said it was investigating the circumstances of the leak, and would take any action that is needed.

"Our first priority is to support the service user and we have arranged alternative accommodation and will move them back into the property as soon as possible," said a statement.

In January 2019, it was awarded a contract to provide housing for asylum seekers in Northern Ireland.

Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR), a human rights organisation, said the "serious incident" was indicative of wider issues in the housing of asylum seekers.

"We want Mears Group to ensure all accommodation provided to asylum seekers meets international and local contractual standards, allowing people to live with dignity," said PPR's Aylisha Hogan.

Mears said the telephone line service was provided by Migrant Help, a separate organisation that helps asylum seekers.

BBC News NI has contacted Migrant Help for a response.