Yvette Cooper calls for urgent reform as report details shameful conditions
As Brits protest against Donald Trump’s anti-refugee policies, a new report by MPs reveals Britain’s shocking treatment of asylum seekers.
Here’s a taster from the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee’s report on asylum accomodation:
“A particular concern drawn to our attention was the presence of vermin in some accommodation and delays in the problem being addressed. Migrant Voice told us that infestations of mice, rats and bedbugs were the second biggest source of complaint for people in dispersed accommodation.”
Here is some testimony from a woman named Jane in Sheffield:
“The rats run up the stairs, and out of the store cupboard into the living room. I am frightened for the children.“
Not surprisingly, these conditions are worse for vulnerable people, such as torture victims. In a passage straight out of the 2017 bestseller 1984, the report notes:
“One client noted that the presence and noise of rats triggered flashbacks as he shared a cell with rats when he was detained and tortured in his country of origin. This trigger led to a significant deterioration in his mental health and the re-emergence of suicidal ideation.”
Other problems include pregnant women living up several flights of stairs, overcrowding, women living in close quarters with strangers and not feeling safe, and filthy living conditions, with dirty carpets, rotten sofas and the stench of urine.
The Home Office and private contractors G4S and Serco are clearly failing to look after the 38,000 asylum claimants in accomodation.
Meanwhile, the number of people waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim is the highest on record, with 27,252 as of September 2016. Thirty-eight per cent, or 16,880, have been waiting more than the government’s target of six months.
And people are still being housed in the most deprived areas of the country, with many local authorities declining to help.
The report also deplores what it calls a two-tier system, whereby funding and support for the government’s Syrian refugees scheme outstrips the wider asylum regime.
Yvette Cooper, Labour MP and Committee Chair, 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.”
“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.”
You can read the full report here, including its recommendations.
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘We will consider the committee’s recommendations and respond in full shortly.’
Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.