Updated 25 June 2022: Guardian/Observer: Revealed: dozens of vulnerable asylum seekers have died in Home Office housing since 2020
Data shows number of deaths is higher than admitted as experts question safeguarding and fear chances to save lives were missed
Dozens of asylum seekers who were officially recognised by the Home Office as vulnerable and potentially in need of protection have died in government accommodation, with previously undisclosed internal documents suggesting a number of the cases involved safeguarding failings.
New data obtained in a joint investigation by the Observer and Liberty Investigates has found at least 107 deaths of asylum seekers who were provided with Home Office housing between April 2016 and May 2022, far more than officially admitted. Eighty-two have died since January 2020.
At least 17 people died by suicide or suspected suicide, according to analysis of Home Office records released under information laws. Half of those who have died since the start of 2020 (41) were flagged as having a “safeguarding element” – a label officials assign to individuals recognised as having vulnerabilities or needs such as a health problem.
A department spokesperson denied that having a safeguarding flag meant a person needed protection. However, safeguarding is the term the Home Office uses to describe its responsibilities towards ensuring the safety of children and vulnerable adults in its accommodation.
One MP claimed their lives had been lost due to “cruelty and incompetence”. Another said the government had questions to answer.
There were four deaths in 2019, rising to 36 in 2020, 40 last year and six so far this year. A steady increase in the numbers accommodated by the Home Office does not appear to explain the steeply rising death rate.
Experts fear chances to save lives were missed. The details of several cases raise questions about apparent “systemic failures”, including potential gaps in safeguarding policies and alleged lapses following them.
Alistair Carmichael MP, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson, added: “These revelations demand an urgent, independent inspection of the accommodation, healthcare and safeguarding provided [for] asylum seekers.”
22 June 2022: New co-research by Solidarities into asylum housing and dispersal policy: Asylum Housing in Yorkshire: A case study of two dispersal areas
The Migrants and Solidarities research project, a cross-European partnership, carried out co-research into asylum dispersal housing in Yorkshire alongside researchers with lived experience from two of our partner organisations, Doncaster Conversation Club and St Augustine’s Centre Halifax.
The co-researchers reported on the impacts of poor quality housing, inability to resolve issues and the challenges of accessing support and services for those dispersed to small, isolated villages, making important recommendations on how the asylum housing dispersal system could be improved.
You can read the full report, ‘Asylum Housing in Yorkshire: A case study of two dispersal areas’ here https://solidarities.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Report_Online-1.pdf, a summary by researcher Mette Berg here https://solidarities.net/asylum-in-difficult-times/, and share on social media here https://twitter.com/Solidarities_/status/1539178741531803649.