New Joint Report: ‘In a place like prison’: voices from institutional asylum accommodation

Today, Asylum Matters alongside Action Foundation, Birmingham Community Hosting, Birmingham Refugee and Asylum Seekers Solidarity (BRASS), Life Seeker’s Aid Charity and Stories of Hope and Home are launching a new joint report, ‘In a place like prison’: voices from institutional asylum accommodation, which looks at the experiences of people seeking asylum who have been housed in hotels, hostels, barracks and initial accommodation centres. The report demonstrates that this type of institutional accommodation causes harm, and that the UK Government’s plans to introduce new large scale ‘accommodation centres’ for people seeking asylum must be abandoned.

The organisations worked together to carry out in-depth interviews with fourteen people in the asylum system with recent experience of living in institutional asylum accommodation. Their stories shared some common themes, as highlighted in the report, including:

  • People we spoke to were left in limbo, for months on end in unsuitable and often unsafe accommodation, with little to no information about their asylum claims. 
  • While not officially a form of detention, the people we spoke to felt that they were being deprived of fundamental liberties and that their lives were being regulated, given the restrictions on visitors, monitoring of residents’ movements and de facto ‘curfews.’
  • People with experiences of detention and torture in their countries of origin felt re-traumatised after being placed in army barracks which caused their past experiences to resurface;
  • Both of the pregnant women we interviewed struggled to access antenatal care and nutritious food; one of them struggled to access emergency care following an incident with her high-risk pregnancy;
  • The two families with children we spoke had no support to enrol their children in school, with both erroneously being told asylum-seeking children were not allowed to go to school; 
  • Many of the interviewees we spoke to felt unsafe in their accommodation, particularly as they faced threats and harassment from far-right extremists present at the sites

The findings of the report are particularly concerning given the Government’s plans, as outlined in its anti-refugee bill, to introduce new ‘accommodation centres’ where people seeking asylum will be housed. We anticipate these facilities, if allowed to come into being, risk permanently instituting the concept of large prison-like refugee camps in the UK. We are calling on the Government to immediately scrap these plans and commit to housing all people seeking asylum safely in our communities. 

We will be developing further plans over the coming months with partners and people with lived experience of asylum accommodation to campaign against the establishment of reception centres. Please get in touch if you would like to be part of this work.

You can view the report here: ‘In a place like prison’: Voices from institutional asylum accommodation

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