Concern at ongoing use of temporary solutions to house people seeking protection in UK

SRC Sept 2010  c. Jenny Wicks  ongoing use   0001  70
Serco is now responsible for accommodating asylum seekers in Scotland

First accommodation in UK must be a place of safety and stability for people seeking refugee protection

Scottish Refugee Council is concerned about the continued reliance on temporary solutions to provide initial accommodation to people seeking refugee protection.

While local authorities have responsibility for housing Syrian refugees resettled via the VPR scheme, it is the UK Government and its private contractors who arrange accommodation for all other people seeking safety in the UK.

These private contractors frequently use hotels to provide short term accommodation to men, women and children who have recently arrived in the UK.

But the Home Office's own guidance only allows the use of such premises as an emergency measure.

When people first arrive in the UK it is often after long and terrifying journeys. Families are frequently split up in transit and many people will have experienced violence, torture and other human rights abuses.

On arrival in the UK people are often disorientated and desperately in need of assurance that they are safe while their claim for refugee protection is assessed.

A safe, secure place to sleep at night with access to health care, advice on the asylum process including how and where to get legal advice, orientation and other assistance such as organising financial support, are all absolutely essential to people’s ability to start recovering from their journeys and to navigate the UK's complicated asylum application process.

Accommodation which is open to the public and is located out with the reach of specialist services and in particular in locations far away from any services or amenities cannot meet this criteria.

For these reasons, we are particularly concerned about the use of private premises in South Ayrshire which currently accommodates around 150 people seeking refugee protection.  These premises are cut off from necessary services and local communities, rendering the Scottish Government’s policy of ‘integration from day one’ effectively impossible to achieve.

The Home Office must immediately assess its contractors’ ability to meet the requirements of their accommodation contract, as well as its own obligations to provide adequate reception conditions and access to essential services and legal advice. The Home Office and its contractors must also fulfill their legal and contractual responsibilities to engage with local communities and service providers in areas where initial accommodation is provided to ensure people’s safety and security.