14 council leaders and politicians have written an open letter to the government warning that the current asylum system is nearing “catastrophic failure”, and asking Home Secretary Sajid Javid to personally intervene.
With the government just weeks away from signing 10-year asylum accommodation contracts worth £4 billion, public officials from Yorkshire, Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Sunderland, and the Welsh and Scottish governments have joined forces to condemn the current system.
Critics of the government’s approach are worried that the Home Office does not appear to have reviewed the current system, or included any of the relevant local authorities in the planning process. Many fear that the new contracts could mean even poorer quality accommodation for vulnerable individuals.
“Our previous experience of the Home Office managing the transition of asylum housing contracts in 2012 was unfortunately one of failure,” reads one letter. “G4S were unable to fulfil their contract, and mass sudden homelessness of hundreds of asylum seekers was only prevented by local authorities stepping in. It is not apparent that lessons have been learned.”
Aileen Campbell, communities secretary in the Scottish government, said: “The handling of the procurement process for the next asylum accommodation contract, particularly the barriers put up to a public sector bid for the contract and the limited engagement with Scottish partners, is extremely disappointing”.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are planning meetings with stakeholders across the UK to discuss the concerns they have raised. We are committed to working closely with local partners to identify, manage and prevent welfare and cohesion problems.”
Help Refugees calls upon the government to heed the warnings of local authorities on poor housing standards, forced bedroom sharing, and lack of accountability.
In granting local authorities and devolved governments greater flexibility and powers in overseeing asylum accommodation, the government would be ensuring that dispersal works for all.
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