Home Affairs Committee releases damning review of asylum accommodation contracts

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The Home Affairs Select Committee has today published a report on its inquiry into asylum accommodation in the UK.

The committee's findings are damning and question whether the asylum accommodation system itself is fit for purpose. The report raises urgent questions about the sustainability of the current dispersal system and calls on the Home Office  to show "greater urgency" about the "degrading conditions" in which vulnerable people are being housed.

Reacting to the report, Sabir Zazai, CEO of Scottish Refugee Council said: 

"The issue of safe, secure accommodation matters so much to the people we serve. This report is yet another searing critique of the Home Office's repeated mishandling of this vital public service to people in need of the safety and stability that a decent home brings. Housing is a human right and the UK Government's policy of outsourcing this public service has failed far too many people.

"The Committee is right to describe the ‘deepening, systemic distrust’ that local authorities and communities have towards the Home Office on this issue. For almost ten years now, the Home Office has operated this service through large private sector companies who have shown themselves to be unaccountable to the communities within which they operate. This distrust has deepened to such an extent that community-based dispersal has been imperilled by Home office neglect.

"The Home Office has persisted in ignoring calls to give local authorities either formal oversight over Serco and other accommodation providers or direct funding to manage the impact of welcoming and integrating those seeking refugee protection in their communities.

"These issue must be addressed immediately before any new contracts are signed.

"The Committee has echoed what many people have told the Home Office for years. The solution is simple: they need to establish a ‘long-term, workable partnership with local authorities which governs the pace and nature of dispersal in each area. Decision making must be shared so the Home Office cannot veto or overrule the wishes of councils and communities. Community-based dispersal does work well, as Glasgow has demonstrated for a generation, but it needs to be properly, centrally funded and accountable.

"We hope the Home Office heeds this report and its recommendations. We all have the right to safe, secure housing, including people seeking refugee protection who may have been without shelter or safety for some time. Well managed accommodation in UK communities gives people the chance to be part of society, to make friends and develop a sense of belonging. 

"That is why the Home office should listen and implement what the Committee and we at Scottish Refugee Council and many others have told them  for years: there is a better way to run this crucial public service."

Read the HASC report here