Asylum seekers in Britain living in “shameful” conditions, says report from MPs
Home Affairs Select Committee report catalogues examples of asylum seekers living in unsafe and unhealthy housing conditions
Houses of Parliament - credit: PA
People seeking asylum in Britain are being forced to live in “shameful” conditions, according to a new report from MPs.
The Home Affairs Select Committee report, ‘Asylum accommodation’, catalogues examples of asylum seekers living in unsafe and unhealthy housing conditions.
Calling for urgent reform, it warns “some of this accommodation is a disgrace and it is shameful that some very vulnerable people have been placed in such conditions”.
MPs heard of people being forced to live in unclean accommodation, with families unable to put their children down on dirty carpet and rotten sofas.
The report found that infestations of mice, rats and bedbugs were the second biggest source of complaint from people living in dispersed accommodation.
It also warned the system is providing inadequate support for vulnerable people.
MPs heard the current system of dispersal is not working, with asylum claimants concentrated in a small number of the most deprived areas, while other local authorities do not participate at all.
It said the inspection, compliance and complaints regimes are inadequate, and that accommodation funding is much lower than for the Syrian refugees scheme, causing a two tier system to develop.
The report, which recommends that local authorities should be given control of seeking out suitable accommodation and greater resources to undertake their responsibilities, has led to calls from the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union for an overhaul of the asylum system.
It comes after the Red Cross found the UK Government’s asylum accommodation contractors in Scotland had provided women and new-borns with substandard, unsafe flats in Glasgow, including cases where infants were learning to crawl on infested carpets.
Housing services are delivered as part of the ‘Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Services’ (COMPASS) contract, which sees Serco provide accommodation and transport services to asylum applicants in Scotland, along with parts of England and Northern Ireland.
The Committee recommended the Home Office takes immediate action to improve standards and monitoring, while working to speed up processing so fewer people need asylum accommodation.
Chair of the Committee, Yvette Cooper MP, said: “The state of accommodation for some asylum seekers and refugees in this country is a disgrace. And the current contract system just isn't working. Major reforms are needed.
"We have come across too many examples of vulnerable people in unsafe accommodation for example children living with infestations of mice, rats or bed bugs, lack of health care for pregnant women, or inadequate support for victims of rape and torture. No one should be living in conditions like that.”
Responding to the Committee’s report, PCS warned the system is “failing asylum seekers and the communities where they are placed”.
The union says the profit motive and the drive by the government to cut costs incentivise private providers, including G4S and Serco, to find the cheapest accommodation.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This is a harrowing account of how catastrophically and shamefully this government is failing asylum seekers and the communities where they live.
“The Home Office must be given the resources to process claims efficiently, so people are not left in limbo, and the profit motive must be removed so central and local government can plan properly how to provide this vital public service.”