A number of constituents contacted me last week asking me to attend a Westminster Hall debate on asylum accommodation contracts. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the debate last Wednesday due to other commitments in Westminster, but I thought it would be useful to share my views on this.
It is, of course, completely unacceptable that people fleeing war and persecution are being housed in appalling and at times unsafe conditions.
As you may be aware, the Home Office contracts out the provision of housing for asylum seekers and the new contracts are set to commence on 1 September 2019. These contracts will have a duration of ten years and although the Immigration Minister has outlined there will be a break in these contracts at the seven-year point, my Labour colleagues and I are concerned that the wide-ranging criticisms of the current arrangements have not been addressed.
I believe that the asylum accommodation system is not fit for purpose and I am disappointed that the Government is taking an “as-is” approach to the new contracts. It is essential that the Government is transparent with both the public and Parliament during this procurement process.
Local authorities currently lack oversight over asylum accommodation and I think they should be given the resources and power to oversee and inspect accommodation in their areas. In addition, providers should respect local rules on multiple occupation homes.
We must ensure that measures are taken to improve the shocking conditions of asylum accommodation in this country. My Labour colleagues and I are calling for an end to forcing the sharing of bedrooms in asylum accommodation and for better provision for vulnerable asylum seekers.