In our broken asylum system, we all lose, it’s time for a change

The way that we run our accommodation for people seeking asylum in this country is harming them and costing the taxpayer billions.

Generation Rent analysis has found that the UK government could have saved at least £1.7 billion in 2023 if they had housed people seeking asylum in suitable homes and flats, rather than hotels.

This comes after the Home Office sought an emergency cash payment of £2.6 billion after unforeseen expenditure on hotels for people seeking asylum in February 2024.

In total, the government has spent an eye watering £4.5billion on private contracts with just three companies providing accommodation lasting from 2019 to 2029.

You would hope that, given the huge cost of these contracts, we would at least be getting some excellent homes for people whilst they wait to find the outcome of their asylum cases. However, this simply is not the case.

The conditions of asylum accommodation

The terrible conditions in which we house people seeking asylum accommodation in this country are well known. In 2023, for example, Refugee Action found that 51% of people seeking asylum reported problems with overcrowding and lack of privacy, 36% had been forced to live in accommodation with a lack of basic facilities, a quarter reported the presence of mould and almost a fifth reported rubbish and unsanitary conditions where they were living.

An older woman and young girl stand by a window looking towards the ground.
People Collection – African

The accommodation that we use to house asylum seekers is woefully unsuitable. Disused army barracks, hotels and now barges, often do not have the basic facilities we all need, such as cooking and washing facilities, and can be poor quality and even dangerous to live in.

Private companies Serco, Mears and Clearsprings have made billions from government contracts, and we have very little to show for it. In fact, people seeking asylum are being routinely subjected to poor, unstable and downright dangerous conditions. Clearly, a for-profit approach to housing people seeking asylum is not working.

The entire system is a mess. We need enough good quality homes for everyone and our failure to plan and bring in long-term solutions has meant that everyone loses. Private renters are struggling to find affordable homes. The taxpayer is footing an enormous bill for unsuitable and costly asylum accommodation. People seeking asylum are being forced to endure unsuitable, poor conditions, for years at a time. Whichever way you cut it, we need change.

What needs to happen?

The government cannot continue to kick the can down the road on this issue anymore. We need long-term solutions to the housing crisis, not stopgap ‘fixes’ which do not work for people claiming asylum, families in need of good-quality homes, or the British taxpayer. We need more homes, and specifically more affordable and more social homes, to build our way out of this crisis.

We are fighting for safe homes for all. Support our fight by signing up to our campaign here.

If you have a story to tell, tell us here.


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