It is believed that the Home Office has plans to construct new purpose built accommodation sites across the UK in which to house asylum seekers.
With Priti Patel’s ‘New Plan for Immigration’ the Home Office is seeking contractors to design, build or renovate large-scale reception centres to accommodate asylum seekers for up to six months while their claims are processed.
One refugee charity describe the proposed ‘national portfolio’ of centres to have the potential to be ‘hugely harmful to vulnerable and traumatised people’.
Specific locations for construction together with any budget has not yet been announced, with the Home Office declining to comment on any ongoing commercial discussions.
Government documents however, detail the sites should ‘provide associated support services to include healthcare, safeguarding and education’.
The Home Office contracts three private companies at the moment, Serco, Mears and Clearsprings Ready Homes, which are meant to provide short term accommodation to asylum seekers. These companies manage small ‘dispersal’ sites across the UK, with the largest and only current mass accommodation centre being Napier Barracks in Kent which accommodates approximately 431 people.
Director at the charity Asylum Matters, Paul Hook, in response to the news that the Home Office has started the process of building mass accommodation centres said: “We know that warehousing people in this type of accommodation is hugely harmful to vulnerable and traumatised people”.
“Instead of embarking on plans that will damage individual’s wellbeing by commissioning costly building contracts, ministers should listen to the feedback to their own consultation on the anti-refugee bill, which showed strong public opposition to these proposals”.
“The Home Office should scrap these plans and instead commit to housing people in local communities where they can rebuild their lives”.
As well as contractors to build new reception centres the Home Office intends to spend £1m on mental health and wellbeing support for individuals awaiting a substantive decision on their asylum claims. Funding is also to be made available to local authorities, strategic migration partnerships and civil society organisations, to deliver ‘ culturally competent’ support to vulnerable adult asylum seekers and individuals who are experiencing distress.
Minimum contract awards of £10,000 are to be granted during 2021 -2022 financial year and will require spending by the end of March 2022.
The news of this new funding for asylum seeker mental health and wellbeing comes as 46 charities have called on Priti Patel to launch an independent inquiry into deaths in the UK asylum system.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Our asylum system is broken and being exploited by criminal gangs who facilitate dangerous, unnecessary and illegal small boat crossings. The New Plan for Immigration is the only credible long term plan to fix the broken system and bring this exploitation to an end. Asylum reception centres will ensure that asylum seekers can be provided with basic, safe and secure accommodation while their claims are processed”.