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Local authorities must do more to support asylum seekers

Asylum seeker housing in the UK will face a growing crisis in the next few years, with unacceptable accommodation and many local authorities failing to take enough asylum seekers, the Home Affairs Select Committee has said.

The committee’s ‘The work of the Immigration Directorates’ report criticised the role of private companies to whom asylum seeker accommodation has been outsourced in recent years, who have attracted high profile scandals.

For example, Jomast, under a sub-contract from G4S after they were awarded the COMPASS contract for asylum seeker accommodation, painted the doors of asylum seekers’ houses red in Middlesbrough, making them targets for racist abuse. Clearsprings forced asylum seekers at Lynx House in Cardiff to wear wristbands in order to receive food.

The report also found that the number of asylum applications in the UK has increased by 19% in the past year, but the number of decisions on applications has stalled.

Keith Vaz, the MP chairing the committee, said: “The compulsory wearing of wrist bands and the infamous red doors demonstrate an unacceptable attitude towards vulnerable people. The Home Office has failed to provide proper oversight and inspection, and must do better.

“The dispersal system appears unfair, with whole swathes of the country never receiving a single asylum seeker. The majority are being moved into low-cost housing in urban areas such as Glasgow, Stoke, Cardiff and of course Middlesbrough, where the ratio is 1 asylum seeker per 137 people. However, on the data we have received, local authorities in areas such as Maidenhead, Lincoln and Warwick have housed none.

“The UK will be facing an unprecedented demand on housing for asylum seekers in the next few years. Between the increasing numbers housed under the COMPASS contract and the Prime Minister’s pledge to house 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, we may need to house as many as 50,000 asylum seekers by 2017 if current trends continue.”

Following the prime minister’s promise to take in more Syrian refugees last year, local councils were promised emergency funding from the aid budget to cope with the increased numbers.

Joe Anderson, mayor of Liverpool, warned last year of a system of ‘asylum apartheid’ where poor northern cities have to take in more asylum seekers than rich southern ones.

The committee recommended that more local authorities must take part in the dispersal accommodation system and provide suitable accommodation for asylum seekers, particularly where there few or none in their area.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and we are committed to providing safe and secure accommodation while applications are considered.

“With the support of local government, we are proactively engaging with areas that to date have not participated in asylum dispersal with a view to negotiating voluntary agreements to do so.

“The Home Office has worked closely with our providers to improve property standards over the lifetime of the COMPASS contract. Where a contractor is found to be falling short of these standards, we work with them to ensure issues are quickly addressed. When they are not we can and do impose sanctions.”

Stephen Hale, chief executive of charity Refugee Action, said: “This report demonstrates conclusively that red doors and wristband scandals were the result of systemic failures in Britain’s system for housing vulnerable asylum seekers, not one-off incidents.

“Ministers must act now, so that the companies responsible are held accountable for the services they provide. A reformed housing system will benefit both asylum seekers and the communities in which they live. Asylum seekers must be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

(Image shows eight-month-old Maria and her father Ibrahim from near Damascus, Syria, after arriving in Europe. C. Kerstin Joensson from AP Photo)


Ms B   04/03/2016 at 14:50

Whats really sad is I don't hear any mention of how the authorities are going to help and support the hundreds of people sleeping rough on our streets!!

Brian   04/03/2016 at 15:25

How many in Cameron's constituency?

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