All councils in the UK could be forced to provide homes for asylum seekers.
The Home Affairs Select Committee has issued a report branding the standard of housing for asylum seekers in the UK "a disgrace" because of a dire shortage, as many local authorities refuse to allow them to be housed in their areas.
The committee has called on the Home Office to use powers to force councils to "take their fair share" if they do not start allowing them in voluntarily, to cater for increased immigration.
Currently, it is down to a local authority if they chose to accept asylum seekers into their area and the majority refuse to take part.
The report has slammed the Home Office's current COMPASS contract system for asylum accommodation, which is provided by three private contractors, saying it is not working and major reforms are needed.
It was published today brands the state of some asylum accommodation provided by Government contractors a “disgrace” and says it is “shameful” that very vulnerable people have been placed in these conditions.
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It highlights a string of problems in housing provided by the firms G4S, Clearsprings, and Serco, as including:
•Infestations of mice, rats and bedbugs the second biggest complaint by asylum seekers
•Some families unable to put their children down on dirty carpet and rotten sofas
•Inadequate support for vulnerable people, such as women in the late stages of pregnancy being placed in rooms up several flights of stairs or being made to share a bedroom
Contractors were found to be housing more people than they were originally funded for because of growing numbers of asylum claims and delays in processing.
A committee spokesman said: "Dispersal isn’t working. Asylum claimants are concentrated in a small number of the most deprived areas with so many local authorities not participating which is deeply unfair."
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The committee recommended that "immediate action is taken to encourage more local authorities to take asylum seekers, including greater funding, involvement and flexibility such as having more control over the location of hostels".
It also wants "action to ensure refugees are shared more fairly between local authorities".
There were protests this month at plans to turn a former care home in Widnes into an asylum hostel.
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The spokesman added: "If local authorities still unreasonably refuse to become involved in providing asylum accommodation on a voluntary basis after the measures recommended have been in place for 12 months then the Government should use its powers to require them to do so."
The committee wants to see the COMPASS contract replaced by "Strategic Migration Partnerships", made up of local authorities) working together to provide asylum homes.
Inspection, compliance and complaints regimes were also found to be inadequate.
Standard asylum accommodation funding is much lower than for the newer Syrian refugees scheme, leading to a "two tier system", the report said.
In November, Express.co.uk revealed G4S had told the inquiry councils that do house asylum seekers are taking a disproportionate amount and the strain on their local services is immense.
In a letter to the inquiry, John Whitwam, managing director, of G4S immigration and borders, said his firm had been told by the Home Office it was already considering making it compulsory for all councils to take part.
He said in September G4S found 248 properties across 22 local authorities, and was blocked from using 166 of them by local councils.
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Ultimately if local authorities still fail to sign up, then ministers should be prepared to use their powers to insist that areas do their fair share.
Of the 135 local authority areas in the Midlands, north-east, Yorkshire and Humberside, and the east of England, where G4S is contracted to provide housing for asylum seekers, only 37 local authorities currently do so.
Home Office figures show between April and June this year, Birmingham took in the most asylum seekers in this region, with 1,562 people being housed, Leicester was second with 884, and Stockton-on-Tees took in 868.
In August 2015 the UK Visa and Immigration section of the Home Office wrote to 79 councils in the G4S region asking them to take in some asylum seekers, but only three agreed to according to Mr Whitwam.
The Home Office will respond to the recommendations which are backed by the Refugee Council.
Other recommendations in the report are:
•Immediate action to improve standards and monitoring – including giving local authorities inspection powers of inspection and new penalties imposed.
•Home Office action to speed up processing so fewer people need short-term asylum accommodation
Chair of the Committee, Labour MP Yvette Cooper, said: “The scale of the international refugee crisis means Britain must continue to do its bit to help asylum seekers and refugees in need of sanctuary.
"Even where the accommodation and support are of a good standard, it is still far too concentrated in the most deprived areas.
"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.
"Ultimately if local authorities still fail to sign up, then ministers should be prepared to use their powers to insist that areas do their fair share.
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"The state of accommodation for some asylum seekers and refugees in this country is a disgrace. And the current contract system just isn't working. Major reforms are needed.
"We have come across too many examples of vulnerable people in unsafe accommodation, for example children living with infestations of mice, rats or bed bugs, lack of health care for pregnant women, or inadequate support for victims of rape and torture.
"No one should be living in conditions like that.
“The Home Office needs to act urgently to raise standards, improve the inspection regime, deal with delays in asylum claim processing which are pushing the numbers up and ensure there is adequate funding."
Charity the Refugee Council gave evidence to the inquiry.
Chief Executive Maurice Wren said: “This report sends a crystal clear message to the Government: it must stop cramming desperate people into unfit, unsafe, rat infested housing.
"The Committee paints a grim picture of poor conditions across the board, but it’s particularly shocking that mums-to-be are being prevented from obtaining the urgent medical care and the nutritious food they need during pregnancy. There’s no simply excuse for putting the lives of women and their babies at risk.
“It doesn’t need to be this way. The success of the Syrian resettlement programme has demonstrated that communities across the UK are both capable of and keen to welcome refugees if local authorities are properly consulted, resourced and responsibility is evenly shared.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "We have been proactively engaging with all areas that to date have not participated in asylum dispersal with a view to negotiating agreements to do so.
"There are now over 120 local authorities signed-up to asylum dispersal.
"Since 2015, 30 new local authority areas have agreed to become dispersal areas and we are in discussions with many more.
“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.
“We work closely with our contractors to ensure they provide accommodation that is safe, habitable, fit for purpose and adequately equipped and we conduct regular inspections to check that this is the case.
“We will consider the Committee’s recommendations and respond in full shortly.”
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