Asylum seekers in Scotland are housed in sub-standard accommodation, putting their physical and mental wellbeing at risk, a new report by Scottish Refugee Council has revealed.
Accommodation for asylum seekers in Scotland is currently managed by multinational giant Serco and housing manager Orchard and Shipman.
Some of the complaints about accommodation raised by asylum seekers in Glasgow include: a lack of adequate heating or hot water; filthy or infested properties; no locks on doors; families having to share accommodation with strangers; a lack of respect shown by housing provider staff towards asylum seekers, etc.
Some people reported that complaints about problems as severe as leaking bedroom ceilings or lack of keys to access their building went unheeded, and that sometimes their complaints were even met with hostility or abuse.
One young man returned to his accommodation to find the locks changed and his few belongings confiscated while a young mother with a toddler son was subjected to frequent racist abuse and forced to repeatedly share accommodation with strangers.
One woman with a five-year-old son shared her experience: “Where do I even begin? With only ten minutes’ notice they brought another family, a woman with a three-year-old, to share our flat, which is only two-bedroomed. It was totally disturbing, it disturbed my college and it disturbed my son’s school routine. We had to share private spaces like the kitchen and bathroom. It was so complicated that sometimes my son ended up going hungry.”
Scottish Refugee Council Acting Chief Executive Gary Christie said: “People seeking asylum are often destitute and not allowed to work to support themselves and are forced to rely on the UK Government to put a roof over their head. The breadth and severity of the examples of accommodation problems detailed in our research are shocking. We are sure that they mirror wider, endemic problems with asylum accommodation across the UK as a whole.”
The Scottish Refugee Council has called for “an urgent and comprehensive review of the asylum accommodation contract in Scotland.”
It has also urged the UK Parliament to scrutinise asylum accommodation provision, with a view to an overhaul of the system to make it fit for purpose.
“We would urge the Home Office and accommodation providers to treat asylum seekers as human beings and to provide housing that genuinely supports their needs, as well as making them aware of their rights and actually listening and responding adequately to any problems they might experience,” Mr Christie said.