Westminster report calls asylum accommodation a ‘disgrace’

Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the Committee
Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the Committee

A Westminster report has described the state of some asylum accommodation provided by UK government contractors as a “disgrace” and “shameful”.

The Home Affairs Committee identified problems including vermin infestations, bedbugs, rotten sofas, dirty carpets and inadequate support for vulnerable people.

In addition, contractors are housing more people than they were funded for because of the contract design, growing delays in Home Office asylum processing and higher applications.

The committee has recommended giving local authorities powers of inspection, higher standards and new penalties. It said this process should be reformed to take account of the experience and particular needs of extremely vulnerable people including victims of torture and trafficking, those with issues relating to gender, women who are pregnant and new mothers.

It also recommended action by the Home Office to speed up processing so fewer people need asylum accommodation and said it warned in previous reports that a backlog in cases has been developing. Those warnings were “not heeded and the consequences are now evident” it added.

Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the Committee, 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.

“Even where the accommodation and support are of a good standard, it is still far too concentrated in the most deprived areas. It is completely unfair on those local authorities and communities that have signed up and are now taking many more people, when so many local authorities in more affluent areas are still doing nothing at all.

“The Home Office needs to act urgently to raise standards, improve the inspection regime, deal with delays in asylum claim processing which are pushing the numbers up and ensure there is adequate funding.”

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