migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Our research into the appalling housing conditions of asylum seekers

Our research into the appalling housing conditions of asylum seekers

MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Our research into the appalling housing conditions of asylum seekers

Migrant Voice’s research into the housing conditions of asylum seekers reveals reports of routine disrepair, lack of hygiene, and inappropriate behaviour from housing officers.

Our report, centring on dozens of respondents in Birmingham and the West Midlands, shows over half of respondents stating that their accommodation was unclean, and they were not provided with cleaning equipment. 44% reported infestation including mice, rats and bedbugs. 50% recorded delays in response to repair requests, including repairs to the electricity and water supply. Only 22% said they felt satisified with their accommodation, and of those some respondents gave only the reason that it was preferable for street homelessness.

Meanwhile just 11% of respondents felt they had positive interactions with housing staff. Many reported feeling intimidated and under scrutiny from housing officers, including instances of knocking without entering, threatening and aggressive behaviour, and sexual harassment. Just 16% of respondents felt physically safe in their accommodation, with many reporting stress or depression.

Our findings are very similar to the findings presented by the Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee on housing for asylum seekers.

Typical comments from our respondents include, “I can't stop crying and I cannot eat because of the mouldy smell. I am 5 months pregnant and I am scared that I have to raise my child in this way with dirt and vermin”, “I feel that anything could happen and the housing providers would not put necessary measures in place to ensure my safety”

The general conditions for asylum seekers is a cause for concern. Most asylum seekers live in poverty and experience poor health and hunger. Asylum seekers rely on state support lower than that provided to most social security claimants, and are usually not permitted to seek paid employment. Their housing is not funded through local authorities and is often in hard-to-let properties.

Traumatic circumstances that asylum seekers are likely to face, the challenges of integration into a new society, and the lack of access to resources or opportunity that asylum seekers face, create a backdrop in which poor housing conditions can have a toxic effect. Our research found that this effect was both material and psychological.

The stories we have heard are deeply disappointing. People have come to a country where they hoped to find a welcoming sanctuary from persecution, and instead found themselves subject to filthy conditions, abuse, and systematic neglect.
We cannot risk a collective mentality where we assume that anything is good enough for asylum seekers. Vulnerable people deserve concern, respect and human dignity. The Home Office must also ensure that it receives value and quality for the public money it disperses to housing providers. Poor-quality housing is a grave concern for people across Britain – not just asylum seekers. The long-term cost to the public purse of poor housing and the social and health problems it creates is not sustainable – as a report last year from the Rowntree Foundation indicates.

Migrant Voice are calling on housing providers to publicise and enforce its minimum quality standards, make its complaints procedure and operations more transparent, and ensure swift responses to urgent repair requests. It is also seeking a guarantee from the Home Office that it reviews housing contracts for value for money, and provides asylum seekers the option of finding their own preferred accommodation at the same or cheaper cost.

Everyone – migrant or citizen – deserves a decent, functioning home. We hope that the Home Office and providers take steps to improve conditions for some of its most vulnerable residents.