‘Life in Hull is the same as in Iraq’ says refugee who wants council house after fleeing Middle East

A refugee who fled the war-torn Middle East after her relatives were killed says life in Hull is ‘the same’ as Iraq.

Intesar Hassan, 55, was sent to East Yorkshire with her children by the UN in 2012 as she fled war in Iraq and Syria.

Since arriving in the city, the mother says she has been left mostly bed bound and reliant on a wheelchair, after enduring squalor at her home and having to wash in her kitchen sink.

The mother-of-four says her life in Hull is in fact ‘hell’, adding: ‘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.’ 

Mother-of-four Intesar Hassan, who is mostly confined to her bed, says Hull is ‘the same’ as Iraq. After fleeing two conflicts and seeking refuge in the North East, she is looking for the council to provide a home that is more accessible for her disabilities

Ms Hassan and her children moved to Syria after her relatives were killed in the Iraq War, where they were provided with food and shelter from the United Nations. 

But when conflict broke out in Syria in 2021, the UN  moved the family to Hull.

Ms Hassan explained: ‘After war broke out, we were brought to Hull as we were under the threat of being killed. We had to escape for our lives.’ 

The family says it was placed into their private-rented house in west Hull on their arrival in the city eight years ago.

Since then, Ms Hassan claims there has been no maintenance carried out on the house, while also stating there is no heating and there’s damp on the walls.  

She said: ‘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. 

Ms Hassan's family fled Iraq after her family was killed during the war (US Army soldiers are pictured in a town south of Baghdad in 2005). The mother-of-four moved to Syria, but were then sent to Hull after war broke out in 2012

Ms Hassan’s family fled Iraq after her family was killed during the war (US Army soldiers are pictured in a town south of Baghdad in 2005). The mother-of-four moved to Syria, but were then sent to Hull after war broke out in 2012

‘I told the Refugee Council that the house is freezing but they didn’t do anything. 

‘We have no heating and no maintenance work has been done on the house in the past eight years.

‘I fell down the stairs in the house which led to me needing to have my gall bladder operated on.

‘I have 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.’

the house was ‘immaculate’ upon the family’s arrival, with the tenants denying access to maintenance workers.

A spokesman for Hull City Council said its environmental health team had also been denied access to the house, adding that council properties were allocated ‘based on need’.

Ms Hassan, 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.’

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, Ms Hassan 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.

‘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.’

Ms Hassan’s landlord said: ‘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.

‘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 a 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.’  

Ms Hassan claims no work has been carried out on her home since arriving in eight years. Her landlord denies the claim, but says they have been unable to access the property since 2017

Ms Hassan claims no work has been carried out on her home since arriving in eight years. Her landlord denies the claim, but says they have been unable to access the property since 2017

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.’

Una Barry MBE, Executive Director of Services at the Refugee Council, said: ‘The Refugee Council provides specialist integration support for resettled refugees, including health, education, welfare and English language support. 

‘We work closely with partners, including Hull local authority and community groups, to help refugees settle into their new communities and make steps towards independence. 

‘However, we do not find or procure housing for resettled refugees in Hull, and are not responsible for overseeing rental agreements for the refugees we support.’




Average salary


Unemployment rate: 


Murder rate: 

Two in 100,000 people 


Settlements around Hull date back to the Stone Age, but its growth as a town came in the 13th century when nearby monks used its river to transport wool. Since then it has been used a market town, a supply port for trade and military, as well as a fishing and whaling centre. 

Famous inventions: 

 Hull is responsible for creating LCD displays (used in televisions and the iPhone) while its Aunt Bessie factory puts out more than 900m Yorkshire puddings a year. 

Renowned citizens: 

Hull’s 18th century MP William Wilberforce is credited with helping abolish the slave trade. Former deputy prime minister John Prescott also represented the city, but was born in Wales. 


The highest-ever recorded temperature in Hull is 34C.

Average highs for the summer in East Yorkshire reach 21C. 




Average salary

52,148,027 dinar (£26,000)

Unemployment rate: 


Murder rate: 

9.85 per 100,000 people 


Iraq is at the heart of ancient Mesopotamia, which has been referred to as the Cradle of Civilisation as some of the earliest human settlements can be traced back to the region. 

Farming flourished in the area, which has been linked to some of the earliest signs of writing.

Famous inventions:

Ancient Mesopotamia is credited with creating the wheel and some of the earliest signs of glass-making.

Renowned citizens:  

Iraq’s rich history has seen many architects, scientists and philosophers emerge from the country over the centuries. In recent history its most renowned citizen is Saddam Hussein, who was president from 1979 to 2003, at the start of the Iraq War.


Iraq’s summers can see average temperatures of up to 48C. 

In 2016 it set a record for its hottest day when the mercury reached 53.8C.