NEWS
17/12/2018 00:01 GMT | Updated 17/12/2018 10:27 GMT

Government 'Failing' Asylum Seekers With 'Vermin-Infested' Accommodation, Report Warns

"This is fundamentally about providing safe accommodation to individuals fleeing desperate circumstances."

The Government is failing asylum seekers faced with “damp, vermin-infested” accommodation, a new report has warned.

Recommendations from the Home Affairs Committee urge the Government to support local authorities by better sharing the responsibility of accommodating refugees.

Among the vulnerable people affected by “below acceptable” housing are torture survivors, pregnant women and people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the report said.

It is calling for responsibility for inspections to be passed on to local councils, to stop people being housed in “badly maintained” properties.

The cross-party group, chaired by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, warned of a growing rift between local councils and the Government as it said ministers had failed to heed previous recommendations.

“Very little” has improved since the committee’s last report on asylum accommodation two year ago, the committee said.

“In spite of repeated evidence from NGOs, local authorities and the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, the Government has done little to ensure that contractual requirements are met,” the committee said.

Local authorities are also calling for greater say in how contracts for accommodation are drawn up, especially the “small number” of councils who have “disproportionately large” amount of asylum accommodation in their region, who are facing resource pressures.

“The Government must understand the concerns of local authorities and provide improved funding support to address the full range of impacts of asylum accommodation on a local area,” the group said.

“They should draw on the experiences of local authorities to better manage the distribution of asylum seekers and ensure they are more fairly distributed among a larger number of areas.”

It comes as the government is preparing to sign off new asylum accommodation contracts in a few weeks, worth £4 billion over 10 years.

Committee member Stuart McDonald MP said: “Local authorities have lost confidence in the system because the Government has failed to listen and respond to their concerns.  

“Glasgow, Manchester, Wolverhampton and communities across the UK have done so much to support those seeking asylum in the UK. Yet, the Government has done little to support them.

“The local authorities who step up and continue the UK’s proud tradition of providing asylum must not be placed at a financial disadvantage because of it. Equally, the responsibility must be shared more widely, and distributed between more authorities, to correct the unfairness of the current arrangements.”

He added: “The new asylum accommodation contract must be the beginning of comprehensive reforms that bring an end to the constant examples of mouldy, damp, vermin infested conditions that asylum seekers experience now.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said: ”The UK has a long history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and we are committed to providing safe and secure accommodation while applications are considered.

“We consider all requests from those who may have particular vulnerabilities, care needs or health problems that require specialist accommodation. 

“We also monitor contractors and their accommodation closely and take action – including financial penalties – where issues are not addressed within certain timescales.

“We continue to work closely with local authorities on asylum dispersal and have committed to comprehensive engagement with the Local Government Association and Local Authority Chief Executives to review the process.”