A family of asylum seekers with two teenage children and a disabled grandmother have been living “in a single room” for more than two years in Home Office accommodation, an MP has said.
Helen Hayes, Labor MP for Dulwich and West Norwood in London, has raised concerns in the House of Commons that asylum seekers staying in a hostel in her constituency are not provided with proper clothing and food.
She said the hostel, Barry House, provides initial Home Office accommodation, provided under contract by Clearsprings, to around 140 asylum seekers, including a ‘significant’ number of children, babies and of pregnant women.
Although she raised issues in parliament in 2018, she said she was still concerned about the wellbeing of those housed there and that the issues have ‘worsened due to the growing backlog in the ministry’ inside “.
Ms Hayes said residents are clear that the problems they are having are not the hostel staff’s fault, but rather that the problems are “structural, they are in the nature of the Department of Health contract. the interior”.
Raising the questions during an adjournment debate in the House of Commons, she said: ‘I regularly hear from residents of Barry House who have been there for many months.
“And there is currently at least one family with two teenage children and a disabled grandmother, who have been stuck in a single room at Barry House for over two years.
“While asylum seekers wait at Barry House, the standard of accommodation is dire.
“Barry House offers rooms with shared bathrooms and no kitchen.
“Covid restrictions remained in place long after they were lifted for everyone, which meant the common room and shared dining room were closed and residents also had to eat in their rooms.
“One of the most common issues raised at Barry House and in hotel accommodation is the quality of the food.
“Residents report that the food is bland, unappetizing, nutritionally poor, culturally inappropriate, often cold and repetitive.”
She said she heard that some residents found the food “so unpalatable that they only ate bread and yoghurt”, and that she had heard that the food provided to asylum seekers staying in hotels was ” just as disastrous.
She added: “Asylum seekers at Barry House and in hotels often experience great difficulty in accessing items essential to basic human dignity, such as shoes, underwear and toiletries.”
Home Secretary Kevin Foster acknowledged the asylum system was ‘broken’ but insisted the government was meeting its legal obligations and that Barry House ‘had been improved and provided a good standard of care. ‘accommodation and support’.
He said: ‘I have told the House before that our asylum system is broken.
“And this is felt most keenly in the accommodation space.
“The consequences of the pandemic, combined with the unprecedented and unacceptable increase in dangerous small boat crossings, have increased the demand for support, and this has had a cumulative impact on the entire asylum field.”
He said: ‘While we are buying dispersal accommodation as quickly as possible, we accept that some people may stay in initial accommodation such as Barry House for a longer period than we would like or expect.’
“We are committed to seeking to address this,” he said, explaining that the government has moved to a new model to more effectively disperse asylum seekers across the country, increasing capacity and providing “ more suitable accommodation.
He said: “Despite the challenges we face, we have always met our legal obligations to destitute asylum seekers.
“We expect clear standards from our service providers and we monitor them closely to ensure they meet those standards.
“When essential living needs are not already covered in hotels, a cash allowance is provided. Additional help is provided to those who can also show that they have exceptional needs.
He added: ‘We believe Barry House has been improved and offers a good standard of accommodation and support.
“It has a kitchen on each floor, a spacious dining room, common areas and dedicated spaces for the privacy of nursing mothers and multi-faith worship.
“The rooms also offer wet rooms and wheelchair access throughout.”
Mr Foster said the government would “review” the concerns raised.