Barriers to Wellbeing

Updated 25 October 2021: Guardian: Asylum accommodation deaths ‘twice as high’ as Home Office admitted

Government accused of downplaying toll after information requests reveal discrepancies

Ninety-five people have died in asylum accommodation since April 2016, almost double the figure recently admitted by the government, raising suspicions the Home Office has deliberately downplayed the death toll.

And the data reveals that in the past two years there has been a particularly sharp increase in the number of deaths of those housed under asylum support provisions, such as in hotels.

Deaths leapt from four in 2019 to 36 in 2020 – a ninefold increase – with a further 33 people in the first eight months of 2021, bringing total deaths since the start of 2020 to 69 people, according to freedom of information (FoI) requests by the investigative journalism organisation, Liberty Investigates.

Dr Sabir Zazai, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, called the figures “devastating” and urged an independent inquiry to establish why so many people in the state’s care were dying.

As recently as three months ago the Home Office said 51 people had died in its asylum accommodation, following FoI requests made by the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC). The new, much higher number has shocked experts and raised questions over the significant discrepancy in death tolls.

The SRC and Liberty Investigates asked about deaths of people housed under four sections of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. The only difference was that Liberty Investigates asked for deaths up to August, two months more. This only explains 11 of the extra deaths, leaving 33 unaccounted for.

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Updated 1 October 2021: Each Other: Rough Sleeping Support Service – Aiding Deportation

The Rough Sleeping Support Service leads to the deportation of some of the people it ought to help. It does so by entrapping homeless immigrants on the basis of questionably informed consent. Yasmin Al-Najar explores further. In 2018, the Home Office announced a new Rough Sleeping Strategy. A year later, The Observer revealed that the government breached privacy laws by collecting rough sleepers’ sensitive personal data without their consent and was using it to deport them. Then, in March 2021, The Guardian, The Observer and Liberty Investigates revealed that the Home Office had quietly relaunched a controversial scheme called the Rough Sleeping Support Service (RSSS).

According to the government’s website, “The RSSS provides an additional and enhanced service to quickly provide immigration status information which may help rough sleepers”. Registered charities and local authorities can use the RSSS to help non-UK rough sleepers access any public funding to which they may be entitled. The government states: “The RSSS can identify non-UK rough sleepers who, on the basis of their immigration status, qualify for public funding but are unable to prove it.” But the government can also use data on homeless foreign nationals to deport them.

The threat of deportation can deter people from asking for support and accommodation by creating an additional barrier to securing their basic human rights. Homelessness threatens several rights under the Human Rights Act, including the right to life in Article 2, the right to protection of property in Article 1 of the first protocol and the right to a private life in Article 8.

Read more: Each Other,

21 September 2021: Institute for Research into Super Diversity and Doctors of the World: Barriers to Wellbeing

Policy recommendations
• Remote provision clearly does not enable contact from all migrants requiring support to access healthcare. As the UK returns to a greater degree of normality reinstating some face to face provision is important to ensure all needs are addressed.

• The increase in asylum seeker users and deterioration in general health in this group points towards potential problems with a) access to healthcare for those housed in hotels b) the health of those living in hotels. The Asylum Providers Accommodation contract should be amended so the statement of requirements includes people in initial / contingency accommodation receiving support to register with a GP following the
HA Select Committee recommendation.

• Individuals living in initial and contingency accommodation should be provided with information in a language they understand on:
a. their right to NHS services
b. how to access prescription medication
c. how to use NHS services
d. how to access COVID-19 information and testing services.

• Provision of wifi or data should be a priority for people living in poverty so that they are not excluded from services as they move online.

• GP surgeries should be encouraged to continue to register new patients throughout the pandemic.

• Policymakers should ensure access to healthcare, especially GP registration, for all migrants, asylum seeker and refugees.

• Increasing migrants’ and practitioners’ understanding and knowledge of the healthcare system, especially awareness of the charging exception. This is vital for both healthcare professionals and individuals at risk of vulnerability. Clear guidance should be provided on
the government website in different languages.

• Given that not everyone has been vaccinated, it is necessary to distribute free face masks to individuals at risk of vulnerability, because they often rely heavily on public transport and lack resource to purchase PPE

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