Asylum Accomodation

The UK has a proud tradition of providing sanctuary to those fleeing conflict and persecution. The provision of safe, habitable and fit-for-purpose accommodation is a central tenet of that support. When the system for providing asylum accommodation fails, it undermines that good work.

I have been concerned to read reports of the conditions at some accommodation sites, including the Napier and Penally barracks. Reports that volunteers working at these sites were asked to sign confidentiality agreements are also concerning, raising questions about what the Home Office is trying to hide.

On 3 June, the High Court ruled that the Home Office’s accommodation of asylum seekers at the Napier barracks site was unlawful. The judge said: “I do not accept that the accommodation there ensured a standard of living which was adequate for the health of the claimants.” The judge found that arrangements were “contrary” to Public Health England advice and said that it was “inevitable that there would be a major outbreak of COVID-19 infections”. This judgment is shameful after the Government was warned so many times about the conditions at Napier barracks.

While I recognise that measures taken due to the coronavirus pandemic have placed extra strain on the asylum accommodation system, it has been well known for many years that there are ongoing problems predating the current crisis. These problems include people being housed in initial accommodation for prolonged periods before being moved into more appropriate dispersal accommodation, which itself is sometimes of poor and degrading condition. Users of asylum accommodation are often very vulnerable people, including torture survivors, individuals suffering PTSD, pregnant women and mothers with small children.

I believe the Government has lost control and all sense of compassion when it comes to dealing with asylum seekers. From plans to send asylum seekers to remote islands, create waves in the English Channel to wash boats back, and buy ferries and oil rigs to process asylum claims, the Government has lurched from one inhumane and impractical idea to another.

I will continue to press the Government to treat asylum seekers with the dignity they deserve and to address what I believe to be deeply entrenched structural problems within our current asylum system, I will always stand for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

All details are correct at date of publication shown at the top of the article

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