Open letter to UK Home Secretary about new asylum accommodation contracts

Thirty three organisations working with refugees across the UK have today called on the Home Secretary to ensure that housing for people seeking protection is managed in a way that is fair, accountable and inclusive of communities and people's individual needs. 

Dear Home Secretary,

A safe, secure home is a necessity for people seeking refugee protection in the UK. As most people arrive here exhausted and destitute it is right, and indeed a legal obligation, that the government provides housing to people in need as a public service.

However, it is essential that the task of providing accommodation to people seeking international protection is done in a way that ensures people’s needs, dignity and wellbeing are upheld and maintained.

 A recent Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry highlighted widespread failures in the provision of asylum accommodation over the last two years, calling current provision a "disgrace".

 The HASC’s report to the UK government set out more than 30 recommendations to ensure an asylum accommodation system that is fit for purpose.

 We are alarmed that the Home Office has not engaged substantively with this report and the critical evidence made to it, particularly at this crucial moment when the future of asylum accommodation is being shaped through the design of new government contracts.

 Before the Home Office awards any new contracts to provide asylum accommodation – contracts which will decide the future of housing for refugees for the next decade -  we urge the Home Secretary to make the following commitments:

•             To confirm that the new contracts will be independently reviewed within 3 years of operation to check whether they are performing well, need reform, or need to be halted.

•             To provide for an independent oversight and accountability role to local authorities in terms of how this public service of housing is planned, procured, implemented and formally scrutinised in their areas.

•             To ensure that local authorities and communities involved in asylum dispersal are fairly and fully financially resourced in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the dispersal system, recognising their role as key stakeholders in the provision of asylum accommodation and integration of new communities.

Signed by:

Sabir Zazai, CEO, Scottish Refugee Council

Maurice Wren, CEO, UK Refugee Council

Michael Collins, Coordinator, Right to Remain

Stephen Hale, CEO, Refugee Action

Rosalind Ereira Solidarity with Refugees

Nazek Ramadan, Director, Migrant Voice

Rita Chadha, Barking and Dagenham Migration Hub

Toni Soni, CEO, Coventry Refugee & Migrant Centre

Sunder Katwala, Director, British Future

Alice Webb, Interim Director, Asylum Support Appeals Project (ASAP)

Vicky Ledwidge, Centre Leader, St Augustine's Centre, Halifax

Jon Beech, Director, Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network

Richard Chessum, Acting Chair,  ASSIST, Sheffield

Alison Moore, Director, Merseyside Refugee and Asylum Seeker Pre and Post-natal support group (MRANG)

Housing 4 All, Belfast

Anne Burghgraef, Clinical Director, SOLACE Leeds

Ruth Davany, Director, Positive Action For Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Roger Nyantou, Director, Refugee Education and Training Advice Service

Sian Summers-Rees, Chief Officer,  City of Sanctuary

Sister Margaret Walsh IJS, Manager, St Chads Sanctuary

Andrea Vukovic, Project Director, Asylum Matters

Emma Crossley, Project Manager, Meeting Point Leeds

Sonya Sceats, Acting CEO, Freedom From Torture

Sheila Arthur, Community InfoSource, Glasgow

Asylum Seeker Housing Project with Women Asylum Seeker Housing Project, Glasgow

Robina Qureshi, Positive Action in Housing, Glasgow

Friends of the drop in for refugees and asylum seekers, Sunderland

Owen Fenn, Project Manager, Govan Community Project , Glasgow

Suzanne Fletcher,  Housing Stream Convenor, Tees Valley of Sanctuary

Migration and Asylum Justice Forum, Tyneside

Doncaster Conversation Club

John Grayson, South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG)

Women in Exile, WomenCentre

Refugee Women’s Strategy Group