We all need a home. Somewhere we feel safe, have privacy and stability to get on with our lives. That is why housing for people seeking refugee protection is so important and why it’s a priority for us at Scottish Refugee Council.
Providing housing to people in need is an essential public service and it’s important that it is delivered in a way that respects people’s rights, needs and dignity.
For people fleeing violence and abuse, their temporary accommodation in Scotland is likely to be the first place they can call home in a long time. For people to recover from their experiences and go on to settle into life here, it is so important that this first home is safe, secure and suits their needs.
Unfortunately, we know that too often this is not the case.
A government report in 2018 found that three quarters of asylum accommodation is substandard. The report found evidence of damp, dirty and vermin-infested properties and unsuitable accommodation particularly for people who have survived torture or domestic violence and pregnant women and new mums.
This evidence matches our own and other charities’ findings.
During Covid-19, we understand that around 360 people are now housed across hotels in Glasgow. We have been concerned whether hotel accommodation and removal of financial support can ever be suitable for many of those moved, especially if compared to the privacy and stability in the accommodation they were moved from.
The Home Office and Mears must explain, in a public statement:
1) The private companies running asylum accommodation are accountable only to the Home Office and not to the local authorities, services and communities where they operate.
2) The Home Office provides no direct funding to local authorities and services in recognition of their being in asylum dispersal areas.
3) The UK asylum system is mired in delays to asylum decisions, which often are overturned on appeal. But for those refused, destitution in their dispersal areas remains Home Office policy.
We believe there are three solutions to achieve dignified housing in a community-based model:
1) That local authorities have formal oversight and accountability over the private companies running this service, including the ability to control the pace and nature of dispersal in their area.
2) That the UK Home Office provides adequate funding to local authorities and public and charity services so that they can support people to settle into their new local communities.
3) That destitution is removed from the UK asylum system and replaced with a new model that allows people to make informed choices about their future.