Updated 25 February 2023: Vulnerable asylum seekers ‘prisoners in their own homes’ after fleeing war zones
As many asylum seekers say they have been placed in unsuitable properties littered with tripping hazards, an expert blamed the system which she says ‘creates a hostile environment’
Alimony Bangura, a disabled asylum seeker from Sierra Leone, is living in Manchester (
Disabled asylum seekers who fled war zones for the safety of Britain say they have been left as prisoners in their own homes.
Many claim they have been placed in unsuitable properties that are littered with tripping hazards and have broken lifts.
One disabled man told how he fell while trying to reach his upstairs bathroom.
And a blind refugee said he could only go out once a week with the aid of carers.
Their misery continues despite a 2020 court case which found the Government failed to provide disabled-friendly digs.
Campaigners say they have warned Home Secretary Suella Braverman of a string of cases across the country.
Worryingly, there is no official record of how many asylum seekers are disabled.
Updated 25 January 2023: The Use of Biological Methods in Asylum Age Assessments (dated March 2022)
Accuracy of examining bones to determine age In non-medical contexts, bone development and skeletal maturity assessed by these methods is used to assess overall maturity as a proxy for chronological age. The accuracy of these methods has been widely researched. Most children (95%) will have a skeletal maturity age within plus or minus 2 years of their chronological age.
[…] Systematic reviews of bone age assessment methods report that that their accuracy and reliability depend on the ethnicity of the population studied. The average chronological age of reaching skeletal maturity varies according to a range of factors including ethnicity. Some studies show a difference between estimated bone age and actual age for Caucasian
young people between the ages of 2 to 19, of between 2 and 12 months. Studies involving people of different ethnicities show a wider margin of error of between 6 months
and 2 years. One reason for these differences is that these methods do not use reference data that are representative of wider populations, in particular, from those likely to be asylum seekers.
[…] There are mixed views among other stakeholder groups. The British Association of Social Workers state that biological methods do not offer any increase in accuracy compared with existing approaches. There is also no clarity as to how much weight a scientific test would carry relative to information produced from a wider holistic assessment. Biological methods tend to attract support from groups concerned about
abuse of the asylum system, in the belief that they can increase the reliability of age assessments, reduce the number of legal challenges and fraud (where adults claim to be children). Scrutinising the Bill, the Joint Committee on Human Rights said “we are not convinced there is any justification for the use of scientific methods”, and noted that any future regulations must be closely scrutinised to ensure that children’s human rights and privacy are protected.
Updated 13 January 2023: Justice Gap: Unreliable age tests on asylum seekers may leave children ‘frightened and unsafe’ report reveals
X-rays and other biological tests could be carried out on children seeking asylum, potentially causing physical and psychological harm, and placing them at risk of radiation. A recently published government paper drew attention to these risks, whilst pointing out that there is “no infallible” method of measuring age. The report also confirms that there is ‘no method…that can predict age with precision.’
The report published by the Interim Age Estimation Science Advisory Committee reveals that biological assessments would potentially expose children to harmful “ionising radiation” and could “increase distress” that is already caused through the social worker “Merton compliant” process of age assessment.
The potentially dangerous biological tests were announced as part of a plan, announced last year by Priti Patel, to stop men from ‘masquerading as children’. The reliability of the proposed tests has however been called into question by rights groups and experts.
According to the Refugee Council, in 2021 they assisted 233 young asylum seekers were deemed to be adults by the home office. Of those, 219 were found to be children upon further assessment by local authority social workers.
The Helen Bamber foundation gathered information from just 55 local authorities and found that in 2021, 450 young people were referred to local authorities for age assessments and of these, three quarters were found to be children. The Refugee council argues that the high level of decisions being overturned ‘challenges the view put forward by the government that the problem is primarily that many of those who claim to be children are not.’
Children who are incorrectly assessed to be adults can be sent to live in hotels, hostel-style asylum accommodation, or former military barracks, and forced to share rooms with adults, without any further support from their local authority. This accommodation is also often overcrowded, with poor access to healthcare and a lack of proper safeguarding.
The Refugee Council’s report warns that children who have fled war, conflict, violence, and persecution and claimed asylum in the UK are left “frightened and unsafe” with such placements ‘potentially exposing them to exploitation and abuse, mental and physical harm’.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council states: ‘When dealing with children the highest level of safeguarding must apply. Yet every day, children are getting lost in an asylum system that is making snap, careless decisions about their age. We know from our own work that this has dreadful ramifications for children who simply want to be safe and are alone, with no one to protect them.’
The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland responded to the proposals, tweeting: ‘Using ‘scientific methods’ to assess child refugees is widely condemned as invasive, traumatising & inaccurate. Councils should continue with their own ‘Merton compliant’ age assessment & refuse wherever possible to accept the use of ‘scientific methods’.’ The Children’s Commissioner for England has not yet commented.
The planned measures are part of a larger series of controversial immigration policies, coming weeks after the Home Secretary announced plans to continue deportations to Rwanda.
Updated 10 November 2022: with an instagram bridge to wellbeing:
Updated 6 May 2022: Women and Equalities Committee: Subject: Equality and the UK asylum process Wednesday 27 April 2022
Witness(es): Rosalind Bragg, Director, Maternity Action; Ms Rivka Shaw, Policy Officer, Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU) – SNN signatories; Esther Muchena, Asylum Service Manager, Scottish Refugee Council
A person from RAPAR reports: I was approached by Greater Manchester Immigration Unit (GMIU) to give my experience on the Asylum system which ranges from dilapidated accommodation, NHS cost, long stay in the system etc The GMIU lady made a presentation of this issues at the Parliament- Women and Equalities committee held on the 27th April 22.
This is the video clip. https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/80d5df93-25d6-4c74-987c-56f5481d3b64
Edinburgh Evening News: Edinburgh residents gather in Nicholson Square after immigration officers seen at Beirut restaurant
Hundreds of protesters stood united, some shouting angry chants and others in floods of tears, as an impromptu demonstation forced an apparent immigration raid to be abandoned in the centre of Edinburgh.
Updated 1 May 2022: Guardian: Immigration officers placed in 25 local authorities by Home Office, FoI reveals
Embedded officials can pass the details of undocumented people to immigration enforcement
The Home Office has placed immigration officers in child social services and dozens of other local authority departments, in an arrangement that has raised concerns about the ability of the most vulnerable to seek support, the Guardian can reveal.
[…] Records released in response to FoI requests reveal that at the end of 2021, 12 local authorities plus HS2 and TfL still had immigration officers working within them on behalf of the Home Office, including five where officers had been placed specifically in children’s services.
The shadow minister for immigration, Stephen Kinnock, said: “Keeping children safe is an absolute priority and there should be no action that puts that at risk. The Home Office must explain what exactly these officers are doing and how they can guarantee that their work does not deny vulnerable children the support or protection they need.”
Mary Atkinson, campaigns officer at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “It’s chilling to hear that government have been entrenching hostility into the services that families rely on for help and protection. Just like the hostile environment in healthcare, we know this practice spreads fear in our communities, and prevents people from seeking support.Advertisement
“It’s time government ended this dangerous and discriminatory approach – every resident should be able to put their trust in local councils at times of need.”
Colin Yeo, an immigration law barrister at Garden Court Chambers, said: “Councils are not legally obliged to collaborate with the immigration authorities in this way and it is disappointing to see them voluntarily creating a hostile environment for vulnerable migrants. Enforced removals and voluntary returns are very rare now so all this does is force people underground who need help and support to get on their feet.”
Updated 31 March 2022: Guardian: Refugees are facing added trauma of UK bureaucracy
The system is designed to discourage people from even applying, writes Lowri Coulten, while Emma Lilley says the hurdles are adding to the distress of Ukrainians escaping war
It was with great interest that I read Diane Taylor’s piece about seasonal Ukrainian workers (‘Scandal in plain sight’: charities call for help for Ukrainian seasonal workers, 28 March). I have sponsored the visas of the wives and son of two seasonal workers who are in the UK on short-term visas. So far so good, and I’m expecting them here hopefully next weekend.
Updated 29 March 2022: SNN founding signatory organisation RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research) Press Release: HOTEL CAR PARK BECOMES A CLASSROOM AS CHILDREN SEEKING SAFETY MISS OUT ON SCHOOL
Human rights charity RAPAR is calling on Manchester city council to explain why children seeking safety have not yet been allocated places in local schools.
RAPAR is demanding that the city council introduce a systematic approach with an accurate count of all the children of refugees living in hotels in the city, along with their ages, whether they have applied for schooling or not, and how long ago.
Dr Rhetta Moran, of RAPAR, said: “This should be happening In Manchester – and everywhere else too. It is a statutory responsibility, not an action to be undertaken by volunteers.”
The children and their families are claiming asylum in the UK after escaping war and persecution – but they are stuck in temporary hotel accommodation because of inhumane and lengthy delays in the UK asylum and immigration system.
CHILD refugees in Manchester are receiving lessons in a car park because no places have been found for them in local schools, campaigners said today.
The Refugee & Asylum-Seeker Participatory Action Research (Rapar) charity said volunteers are giving the children lessons in the car park of a hotel where they are living and called on Manchester City Council to deal with the problem.
Dr Rhetta Moran of Rapar said: “The children and their families are claiming asylum in the UK after escaping war and persecution -— but they are stuck in temporary hotel accommodation because of inhumane and lengthy delays in the UK asylum and immigration system.
Updated 28 March 2022: Guardian: Overseas nurses in the UK forced to pay out thousands if they want to quit jobs
Observer investigation uncovers NHS trusts and private care homes charging staff who leave to recoup recruitment costs
International nurses working for NHS trusts and private care homes are being trapped in their jobs by clauses in their contracts that require them to pay thousands of pounds if they try to leave.
In extreme cases, nurses are tied to their roles for up to five years and face fees as steep as £14,000 if they want to change job or return home early.
The Royal College of Nursing and human rights lawyers are calling for an urgent government review after an Observer investigation uncovered evidence of the clauses being used in both the NHS and private sector.
Designed to retain staff and recoup recruitment costs, they often cover hiring expenses such as flights to the UK, visas and the fee for taking language and competency exams. In many cases, they also include the costs of mandatory training, which workers hired in the UK are not routinely required to pay.
Nurses affected by the repayment terms, many of whom served on the frontline at the height of the pandemic, said they had been pushed into debt or locked into long-term payment agreements after leaving roles, even in cases of bullying or family emergencies. Others stay in jobs despite illness or poor working conditions as they fear they will be unable to repay, charities and unions said.
[…] Susan Cueva, a trustee of the charity Kanlungan, which supports Filipino migrants, said: “They are taking advantage of these workers who have no clue about the rules in the UK,” she said. “They end up thinking, ‘I better sit tight, even though I’m suffering,’ because they can’t afford to pay it back.”
She said it was unfair for employers to pass recruitment costs on to workers, when hiring internationally can save them huge sums.
Updated 11 March 2022: The Civil Fleet: 19 people died in Home Office asylum-seeker accommodation in 2021
Close to two people died on average per month while in the Home Office’s care last year, figures provided in a freedom of information request show
AT LEAST 19 people, including a two-year-old boy, died inside Home Office asylum-seeker accommodation in 2021, The Civil Fleet can reveal.
Sixteen men and three women died at Home Office asylum accommodation facilities across England and Wales, according to figures provided in a freedom of information (FOI) request.
The average age of those who died in these facilities last year was 40.3 years of age, far below the 79.3 years of age the Office for National Statistics states as the average life expectancy at birth in the UK in 2018 to 2020.
The figures put the average monthly deaths in these facilities, provided by outsourcing companies Clearsprings Ready Homes, Serco, and Mears Group, at 1.5 deaths per month.
Updated 6 March 2022: Not news to us but reported today in the Guardian: Non-British rough sleepers ‘targeted for deportation’ by Home Office support scheme
Charities and councils passing on the personal data of homeless people could lead to them being forcibly removed from the UK
The personal data of dozens of non-British rough sleepers has been shared with the Home Office under a controversial programme that could lead to their deportation.
Councils and homelessness charities shared the sensitive details of homeless people 85 times with the Home Office under a scheme critics describe as an attempt to embroil organisations in the government’s “hostile environment” policy.
The Home Office will not reveal how many of the people referred to its Rough Sleeping Support Service (RSSS) since October 2020 have been forcibly removed from the UK.Advertisement
According to documents obtained by Liberty Investigates and the Observer, the referrals were made by 11 councils including Gloucester and Leeds, a housing provider called Keystage Housing, and three charities, one of which has since withdrawn from the scheme saying it wanted to avoid putting rough sleepers at risk.
Updated 13 January 2022: Essex Live: Mum ‘lived in fear’ of being deported for years after moving to Essex to give children a better life
For nine years, Tana lived in constant fear of being deported after fleeing a country where she felt unsafe
An Essex mum “lived in fear” as an undocumented migrant for nearly ten years in one bedroom with her two children to give them a “better life”.
The day Tana Famose arrived at Gatwick airport in 2010, was the first time she felt safe in years.ADVERTISING
The 49-year-old had left Zimbabwe with no money or belongings to her name, only a child on either arm and a small handbag with their passports in.
But still, she felt safe – away from a dangerous partner and a life where she feared for her children.
In the months before they arrived, Tana had painstakingly sold all their belongings in a desperate attempt to buy tickets to England.
The mum and her two children, then three and six, had spent around eight months living in the single room of a hostel with no money or hopes, after fleeing their home.
Updated 30 January 2022: Guardian: Sri Lankan man left in immigration limbo for decades can stay in UK
Ponnampalam Jothibala, who came to the UK in 1983, granted indefinite leave to remain by Home Office
A man who came to the UK to train as an accountant almost 40 years ago and was left homeless after a catalogue of Home Office delays has finally been granted leave to remain months before his 70th birthday.
Ponnampalam Jothibala, 69, a Sri Lankan Tamil, said he was overjoyed his case had finally been resolved, even though he was now “an old man”.
When interviewed by the Guardian last year, Jothibala said he had not been able to leave the UK for decades, but he dreamed of going on holiday by the seaside if his case was ever sorted.
The Home Office finally granted him indefinite leave to remain earlier this month after leaving him on immigration bail for more than 16 years.
Updated 20 January 2022: Independent: ‘Teen’ migrants win fight with Priti Patel after ‘unlawful’ age assessments
The pair took High Court action, saying they were teenagers but had been judged by social workers to be adults after arriving in Kent.
The pair said they were teenagers but had been judged by social workers to be adults after arriving in Kent
Both said they were given “short” rather than “full” assessments, and argued that the way their ages were gauged was unfair.
A judge ruled in their favour and concluded that the age assessments – carried out at a holding facility in Dover Kent – were unlawful.
Bosses at a charity working with refugees welcomed Mr Justice Henshaw’s ruling.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said “hasty” decisions had been made and described the ruling as “important”.
The judge, who is based in London, outlined details of the case in a written ruling, which was published on Wednesday, after considering evidence at a hearing last year.
9 January 2022: Asylum seekers: The homes where ceilings have fallen in
Damp, debris and falling ceilings – a BBC investigation into accommodation for asylum seekers has uncovered serial concerns about housing conditions.
Refugee organisations say they hear regularly about properties residents believe are unsafe, and they struggle to get help on a national phone line.
The concerns come after a year of mounting controversy over how the Home Office is managing asylum seekers.
But it said it was providing “safe, comfortable and secure” accommodation.
Projections suggest the UK could house 80,000 asylum seekers by next year.
The government puts asylum seekers in accommodation run separately to social housing.
After previous criticisms, the Home Office reorganised contracts in 2019 under three companies: Mears, Serco and Clearspring Ready Homes.
A fourth contract paid for a national phone line, Migrant Help, to handle complaints and pass them to the housing companies.
Read more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-59763205
9 January 2022: Guardian: Home Office tells asylum seeker he can return to Syria safely
Man, 25, fears he will be killed after fleeing forcible conscription into Bashar al-Assad’s army in 2017
The Home Office has told a Syrian asylum seeker he can return to the country he fled during the war because it is safe to do so, in what is thought to be the first case of its kind.
The 25-year-old asylum seeker sought sanctuary in the UK in May 2020. He fled forcible conscription into Bashar al-Assad’s army in 2017, saying that he would have been forced to kill other Syrians. He said that if he is forced back to Syria he will be targeted as a draft evader, arrested, detained and killed.
Until now, the UK has not returned refugees who opposed President Assad’s regime because of the dangers still present in a nation torn asunder by the continuing civil war.
But the Guardian has seen a refusal letter sent to the man by the Home Office in December, in which officials said: “I am not satisfied to a reasonable degree of likelihood that you have a well-founded fear of persecution.”
Updated 22 December 2021: Guardian: Asylum seekers in PM’s constituency claim accommodation ‘not fit to live in’
Residents begged Boris Johnson for help after no improvements made to rundown flats in Uxbridge and South Ruislip
Dozens of asylum seekers are begging Boris Johnson to help rehouse them, claiming the Home Office accommodation in his constituency is not fit to live in.
The 18 rundown flats in Uxbridge and South Ruislip have housed some asylum seekers for years without any improvements being made – despite repeated complaints. Each apartment has five tiny bedrooms and no communal space, besides kitchens and bathrooms left filthy from a lack of maintenance.
Some residents are victims of torture, have been trafficked and have faced other forms of persecution. One man says he is a victim of organ theft, having a kidney stolen by an organ smuggling ring while en route to the UK. A charity supporting him said he has made several suicide attempts.
The rooms are so small there is only space for a bed and a cupboard. Damp and mould are rife, while water leaks from walls and through ceilings. Rodents and cockroaches are also a problem. Broken appliances such as fridge-freezers and vacuum cleaners are not removed from the properties, even though space is scarce.
The flats were provided by Clearsprings, the Home Office contractor that provides accommodation for asylum seekers in some parts of the UK. When charity workers asked the firm’s accommodation manager if the flat put aside for one asylum seeker was kept to a decent standard, the manager replied “lol”. A screenshot of the exchange of the messages has been shared with Clearsprings but it declined to comment.
[…] Hannah Marwood (of the SNN signatory organisation) – charity Care4Calais said: “We were horrified to see the conditions that so many people have been living in for so long. This is not the first time we have supported people in such unacceptable accommodation. It is an undignified and ultimately unsafe way to be forced to live.”
Updated 10 December 2021: Citizens Advice: How do I survive now? The impact of living with No Recourse to Public Funds
NRPF is a condition attached to temporary visas which prohibits people from accessing most state benefits and services, including Universal Credit, Child Benefit and social housing. It’s intended to protect the welfare state from short term visitors taking advantage of it. But it’s a policy that, in its scope and its harm, has gone far too far.
There are over a million people who are affected by NRPF in the UK. This is the first nationally representative study of the harms caused by this policy. It confirms what migrant groups and front line charities have long known: there is a comprehensive picture of hardship:
- 81% of people with NRPF are behind on at least 1 bill, compared to 1 in 5 (20%) people in the UK at large
- 3 in 5 (60%) people with NRPF are currently behind on rent, compared to 8% for the UK population at large. And just under half (48%) of people with NRPF report living in overcrowded accommodation
- Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) have been unable to feed themselves or their household because of the policy
- Over 4 in 5 (83%) people with NRPF say that NRPF has had a negative impact on their mental health, with 1 in 2 reporting that it has had a very negative impact
- Around 1 in 7 (15%) parents with NRPF said their children couldn’t keep up with school work as NRPF meant they didn’t have access to the internet or a computer.
With limited and inadequate exceptions, NRPF places a blanket ban on these long term residents claiming state support when needed. Some of the harm could be mitigated by reforming the policy – for instance by ceasing to apply the conditions to families with children. But the best way to address the damage caused by the policy is to give people who are building their life in the UK the access to the safety net they need, by removing the condition from all those who are habitually resident in the UK.
Read the report here: How do I survive now? The impact of living with No Recourse to Public Funds
8 December 2021: The Mirror: Three-quarters of banks have clauses that ban landlords from renting to asylum seekers
Just 25 percent of lenders will allow asylum seekers to let properties, mostly with caveats, while the rest of them ban those seeking asylum outright, severely restricting their options
Homelessness faces many refugees (Image: Getty Images)
Three-quarters of banks will not allow asylum seekers as tenants, worsening the wider issues this group faces finding proper housing.
Read more here:
Updated 23 November 2021: Guardian: System for assessing who must pay for NHS care ‘incentivises racial profiling’
Study criticises stringent charging regime introduced by NHS England over the past decade
The system for assessing who should be asked to pay for NHS services “incentivises racial profiling”, an investigation has found.
A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found that overstretched NHS staff sometimes racially profiled patients in order to determine who was not “ordinarily resident” in the UK, and therefore must pay for their care.
The report is critical of the more stringent charging regime introduced by NHS England over the past decade as part of a series of measures devised to create a hostile environment for people living in the UK without the correct immigration status. NHS trusts have appointed overseas visitors officers, responsible for identifying chargeable patients, as part of a cost recovery programme launched in 2014.
One of the officers told the IPPR study they had felt forced to discriminate between patients based on their name. “If you’ve got a, I don’t know, Mohammed Khan and a Fred Cooper, you’re obviously going to go for [investigating] the Mohammed Khan … Even for someone who’s, you know, well I’d like to think hopefully open-minded, like myself, you’re just trying to save yourself time because there’s not enough hours in the day,” the officer said.
Progressive Policy Thinktank: Towards true universal care: Reforming the NHS charging system
The system of charging migrants for healthcare in England has become increasingly stringent in recent years.
Since the introduction of the new rules, there is a growing body of evidence highlighting their adverse impacts. Through interviews with people with direct experience of NHS charging, healthcare workers and policy professionals, we found further evidence of systemic problems with the current charging system.
Other countries in Europe operate fairer systems to provide healthcare for residents without immigration status. Drawing on these examples from other countries, we tested out alternatives to the current system with our expert interviewees. Based on our interviews, we drew up a shortlist of five alternatives to the current charging system.
Read more, watch the video, download the publication here: https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/towards-true-universal-care
Updated 13 November 2021: Event of SNN signatory organisation: Launch event of Kanlungan Filipino Consortium’s new report and zine on the experiences of undocumented Filipino migrants during the pandemic
Join us in celebrating the launch of Kanlungan’s new report and zine, “Hear Our Voices,” focused on the experiences of undocumented Filipino migrants over the past year. This report and zine have been produced through collaborative and creative workshops with undocumented Filipino migrants in an effort to give a platform to those whose voices are rarely heard.
Date: Sunday 14 November 2021
Time: 1:00 – 3:30 PM
Location: Hopkins Room, Stratford Library, 3 The Grove, London E15 1EL and ONLINE
13 November 2021: This article (below) in today’s Guardian brings to attention research involving our signatory organisation Kanlungan Filipino Consortium which confirms the validity of fears expressed here a year ago that people without settled status in UK feel themselves to be at great risk if they come forward for Covid testing, treatment and vaccines.
This is just one reason why the StatusNow4All campaign for everyone to be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain is so necessary – no-one is safe until we are all safe #HealthAndSafetyForAll.
- 20 October 2021: Is personal data of those seeking access to NHS services shared with immigration enforcement authorities.
- 10 April 2021 Everyone should have access to the vaccine but this reported Vaccine ‘Amnesty’ Declaration is a Trap and Won’t Work
- 28 December 2020 “No one should fear accessing medical advice from our superb NHS due to an immigration reason.”
- 3 December 2020: Barriers to Accessing Vaccination
People fear that coming forward for a jab or other medical care will bring them into conflict with the authorities.
Undocumented migrants reveal they have been forced to avoid the Covid vaccine, dodge medical help when ill, give up jobs and take up more cramped accommodation during the pandemic, in a study that suggests the virus exacerbated the “deadly effects” of the government’s “hostile environment” immigration policies.
Almost half of the group said explicitly that they were afraid of trying to obtain the vaccine because of their immigration status, or were hesitant because they did not have enough information about it. Several said that they had to buy their own PPE to ensure they could keep working. One was eating just one proper meal per day to save money after losing work, while another volunteered for a charity in exchange for hot meals.
The study, published by Kanlungan Filipino Consortium – a charity working to empower Filipino, east- and south-east Asian migrants – and backed by the British Academy, followed a group of 14 Filipino migrants, many of whom worked in care and domestic work. They were interviewed in spring 2020 and again this year to record how their immigration status was affecting their ability to cope during the pandemic.
Updated 2 November 2021: From Zero Vovid Coalition: “The current situation continues to put me and my baby at risk of contracting the virus”
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.
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, https://is.gd/pVG94l
21 September 2021: Institute for Research into Super Diversity and Doctors of the World: Barriers to Wellbeing
• 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