We have submitted evidence to the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration for their current inspection into the Home Office’s use of hotels and barracks as contingency asylum accommodation (February 2021).

The submission sets out several positions relating to the inappropriateness of institutional accommodation, and its impact on the health and wellbeing of people seeking safety in the UK.

By institutional accommodation, we mean the use of accommodation like hotel rooms and army barracks as opposed to individual flats or houses based in communities.

The submission also highlights that data obtained through Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) made to the Home Office, at least 25 people lost their lives in the asylum support system between April and November (inclusive) 2020, compared to a total of 7 people deceased in the preceding two years from April 2018 to March 2020 (inclusive).

This rapid increase in loss of life in the asylum system is deeply concerning, and the Home Office has yet to present a clear policy position on what its responsibilities are when a death occurs in its asylum jurisdiction.

Graham O’Neill, Policy Manager, Scottish Refugee Council said: “This call for evidence provides an opportunity for Scottish Refugee Council to voice its deep concerns about the use of institutional accommodation in the asylum support system.

“As our submission outlines, people who seek safety in the UK need a safe, secure place to stay, and from which to rebuild their lives. Hotels and barracks cannot offer this, and evidence shows that institutional accommodation like this is detrimental to the health and wellbeing of individuals, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The figures which imply a rapid increase in the number of deaths in the asylum system are tragic and extremely concerning. We urge the Home Office to provide a clear policy position on what its responsibilities are when a death occurs. We know that the UK can do better than this. The UK must do better than this. Every one of these individuals was a son or daughter, mother, father, sister, brother, friend. We can’t accept their deaths as just a hazard of the UK’s asylum system. This cannot go on.”

Click here to read our full submission.

The submission has the following key messages:

  • Institutional accommodation is inappropriate for people seeking refugee protection, as what they desperately need is the stability, privacy and sense of safety of a home in communities.
  • During the Covid-19 pandemic, institutional settings with shared facilities, limited space and unwanted contact with others, is especially unsuitable. It must be an exception, short-term and never include barrack facilities.
  • The use and growth of institutional accommodation preceded Covid-19. That stemmed from a mismanaged system, with no slack, and resources passing only to commercial contractors.
  • The Home Office must reverse this shift to institutional accommodation and start housing those seeking refugee protection in communities again, through its asylum dispersal system. This means providing funding to councils and devolved governments for dispersal, and putting in place independent regulation of accommodation contractors.
Claire Thomson
Author: Claire Thomson