An asylum seeker is believed to have killed himself at a Home Office hotel in Hailsham, according to documents which raise questions over possible safeguarding failures.

Victor Hugo Pereira Vargas, 63, from Colombia, was found dead with apparently self-inflicted wounds in his hotel room on October 13.

A Sussex police spokesman said his death “is not being treated as suspicious”.

His death comes to light days after Albanian asylum seeker Leonard Farruku was reported to have taken his life on the controversial Bibby Stockholm barge on December 12.

In a joint investigation, The Argus and investigative journalism unit Liberty Investigates can reveal Mr Vargas was given a pauper’s funeral by Wealden Council, according to its website.

Documents seen by Liberty Investigates raise questions over potential safeguarding failures in the two months leading up to his death.

Mr Vargas was housed in a hotel run by Clearsprings Ready Homes, a Home Office contractor for the provision of asylum seeker accommodation.


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Hotel staff witnessed Mr Vargas “visibly distressed” two months earlier on August 16, according to documents seen by reporters.

He asked them to ring the police as he wanted to leave the UK and go anywhere except his home country.

Mr Vargas later complained to staff about being unable to sleep for three days on September 11 and was booked for a mental health appointment with a GP.

He was reported missing from his hotel on September 25 and reportedly told staff he was robbed of his wallet and documents when he returned the next day.

Mr Vargas told staff he was robbed by a group of Colombians he met and whose help he sought to get to an airport.

Records suggest Mr Vargas wanted to report his ordeal to police but did not do so as he did not know the identities of the suspects.

The Argus: The Bibby Stockholm BargeThe Bibby Stockholm Barge

Clearsprings did not confirm whether its staff attempted to support him in referring the case to the police. Neither London Metropolitan nor Sussex Police had a record of the alleged robbery.

Dr Juliet Cohen, a forensic physician who reviewed details of the “tragic case”, said the failure to report this crime to the police appeared “contrary to the provider Clearsprings’ safeguarding policy”.

She added: “For asylum seekers living restricted, dependent lives in this kind of accommodation the Home Office has taken responsibility for their welfare.

“The accommodation provider and the Home Office have a critical role and duty of care for such vulnerable people, made more vulnerable by their current circumstances.”

Mr Vargas remained at the hotel for just over two more weeks. After he failed to turn up for breakfast security personnel broke into his room, which appeared to be barricaded from the inside, and found him dead.

One asylum seeker who was living at the same hotel told The Guardian: “We were so shocked about what happened to Victor. He used to go down for breakfast at 7am the same time as me. But one morning he just didn’t appear.

“None of us were given support or counselling to help us deal with this.”

Mr Vargas is one of four asylum seekers known to have died by suicide or suspected suicide since September, including Mr Farruku.

In total 23 asylum seekers have killed themselves or are suspected to have killed themselves in Home Office accommodation since 2020 according to research by Liberty Investigates.

The total over the past four years is more than double the figures from 2016 to 2019.

In total 180 people are known to have died in government asylum seeker accommodation from a variety of causes since 2016.

A spokesman for Clearsprings Ready Homes, one of three private companies that have contracts with the Home Office to provide asylum accommodation including at the property where Mr Vargas died, said: “For data protection reasons we cannot comment on individual cases, however we are always saddened to hear of the death of any individual in our accommodation.

“The wellbeing of service users housed by us is always of primary concern. We work closely with a range of organisations and professionals who offer further support to those who need it.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The welfare of all those in our care is of the utmost importance. Any death in asylum accommodation is a tragic event and will be subject to investigation by the police and coroner.

“We work continually to ensure the needs and vulnerabilities of those residing in asylum accommodation are identified and considered, including those related to mental health and trauma.”