Asylum seekers say they are ’treated like animals’ in homes funded by taxpayer, MPs told
One asylum seeker said they were threatened with deportation by a housing provider employee when they suggested they may make a complaint about conditions in the property.
Some people seeking refuge in the UK from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq, also complained that staff working for the contractors often spoke “too quickly” so they could not understand what was being said.
The concerns were raised by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Psychological Trauma Service in a report to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into asylum accommodation.
The committee is expected to publish a report on its recommendations over how to improve such accommodation on Tuesday.
The NHS service was considering the impact of poor housing on the mental wellbeing of asylum seekers referred to it.
The report revealed a catalogue of problems including one asylum seeker laying on springs on a bed as they had no mattress, child protections issues due to women and children sharing accommodation with unknown males, and locks being changed while people were briefly out of the property.
It said during a meeting asylum seeker service users said one woman was made to move out of her flat in one hour despite being heavily pregnant.
It added that they were “never give any notice, so you can’t take your belongings and furniture with you” and that people were “treated like an animal.”
The report said that asylum seekers felt that their complaints to housing providers over the quality of accommodation, which include problems like insect infestations, were not taken seriously.
The report said: “It was reported that clients often felt fearful pursuing complaints against the housing provider due to uncertainty about the impact this may have on their asylum claim or being moved out of the area.
“More generally, when clients raised concerns about accommodation issues to the housing provider, they perceived these were dismissed or minimised.
“A client reported being allegedly threatened with deportation by a housing provider employee when he/she spoke of making a complaint.
“The response from the housing provider when raising accommodation issues on behalf of a client was varied (resolution, no action and delayed action).
“Difficulties were reported with clients not being able to understand important information during telephone calls with the accommodation provider due to language barriers.
“It was noted that there was a lack of sensitivity to English not being the first language, specifically, the housing provider employees not adapting their speech (rate/clarity) to facilitate understanding or using interpreters.”
Other concerns included housing staff turning up without warning, drug use by other asylum seekers, and staff being rude and disrespectful.
The report added: “Clients feeling discriminated against because they were an asylum seeker.
“For example, allegedly being told by a housing provider employee that they had to put up with their circumstances because they were an asylum seeker/they should be grateful they had a roof over their head.
“Reports of clients being spoken to by housing provider employees in what was perceived to be derogatory, rude or aggressive manner.”
The report suggested a series of improvements in the housing of and treatment of asylum seekers to prevent risk of mental problems.
The UK is housing more asylum seekers than ever due to increased immigration levels from crisis-hit regions in the Middle East.
It said: “Many asylum seekers have been forced to leave their home countries because of multiple experiences of trauma (war, torture, violence) and human rights violations and report trauma related mental health problems.
“On arrival to the host country, asylum seekers are often faced with the pressures of navigating their way through a complex and often protracted process of claiming asylum, whilst living with ongoing fear of further trauma if deported.
“The stressors faced at this time, such as poor socio-economic living conditions, separation from family and/or reduced support, employment restrictions; delayed asylum application process and social welfare have been shown to interact with mental health difficulties.
“The multiple and repeated traumatic events experienced by asylum seekers can increase their vulnerability to psychological distress and mental health difficulties.”
The Home Office has said it will look at ways of improving asylum seeker accommodation once it receives the committee report.
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