‘Rats and insects’ found in asylum housing

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Some asylum seekers have been placed in accommodation infested by rats, mice and insects after arriving in the UK, a report by MPs says.

The Home Affairs Committee called the conditions a “disgrace” and said some councils were doing far more than others to take in those in need.

It called on ministers to compel more local authorities to sign up to a scheme for housing asylum seekers.

The government said it was working to ensure “safe, habitable” accommodation.

It promised to look in detail at the report’s findings.

The committee looked at the “dispersal” scheme used to place asylum seekers around the UK.

‘Frightened’

It found applicants were concentrated in a small number of some of the most deprived areas – placing pressure on local schools and healthcare services – while the voluntary nature of the scheme meant some councils took none.

Since 2012, accommodation has been provided to asylum seekers via six regional contracts delivered by three providers:

  • Serco
  • G4S
  • Clearsprings Ready Homes

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Some residents reported problems with rats

The report said poor accommodation was the most significant problem identified in the evidence it had received, which focused largely on contracts administered by G4S and Serco.

One woman reportedly said: “I put anything I can under the doors”.

She added: “The rats run up the stairs, and out of the store cupboard into the living room.

“I am frightened for the children… twice they said they were sending pest control – nobody arrived.”

Another house was “very dirty”.

“The carpet was very smelly and dusty. The kitchen was full of mice; they even ran across the dining table while we were eating,” the report said.

A different client reported that “the presence and noise of rats triggered flashbacks as he shared a cell with rats when he was detained and tortured in his country of origin”.

‘Smell of urine’

But MPs said insects were a more widespread problem than rodents, with one woman stating: “Since we had moved into this house, all of my children had bites on their skin. The GP said that it was due to insect bites.”

In another property, a woman had a blanket on the floor, reporting that “the carpet was dirty and smelt of urine when she moved in”.

“She had tried hard to wash it, but could not get rid of the smell, so she had had to buy a blanket to cover the floor to put her baby on,” the report said.

Some families complained they could not put their children down to play, because of dirty carpets, and some had “been told to go to a charity shop to buy a throw to place over the sofa”.

The committee called for measures to increase participation by councils in the dispersal scheme, adding if some continued to fail to sign up, the government should use powers to compel them.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the committee, said: “The state of accommodation for some asylum seekers and refugees in this country is a disgrace.”

She added: “It is completely unfair on those local authorities and communities that have signed up and are now taking many more people, when so many local authorities in more affluent areas are still doing nothing at all.”

‘Proud history’

But David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s asylum, migration and refugee task group, said councils were “stepping up to the plate”, with more than 200 becoming dispersal areas.

For Labour, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “It is simply unacceptable in 21st-Century Britain that people fleeing war and persecution are being placed in such disgraceful conditions.

“Many councils across the country are willing to step up and take in refugees.

“But ministers must now come forward with proposals to ensure all local authorities play their part.”

A Home Office official said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection, and we are committed to providing safe and secure accommodation while applications are considered.”

It “worked closely with our contractors to ensure they provide accommodation that is safe, habitable, fit for purpose and adequately equipped” and was regularly inspected, they said.

“We will consider the committee’s recommendations and respond in full shortly,” the official added.

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