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Asylum Accommodation: Covid-19

Volume 681: debated on Monday 28 September 2020

As I have mentioned, during the coronavirus pandemic we have been allowing people to remain in their asylum accommodation even after their asylum decision has been made, positively or negatively. We started cessations in August for positive cases, and more recently in England for negative ones. As a result, the number of people we have been supporting has gone up hugely, from about 48,000 to about 60,000 across the UK. That has put enormous strain on the system, but we have been working night and day to accommodate that strain.

As covid’s second wave hits, the Minister must recognise that evicting asylum seekers into destitution will be a disaster for both asylum seekers and the communities into which they are evicted. Will she reverse these utterly reckless plans and confirm whether public health directors and bodies were consulted about this specific decision, and what they advised?

I am a he, not a she. We will not reverse the decision, because we need to make sure that when their asylum decisions have been made, people are moved on into the community. We cannot accommodate people indefinitely. As I said in answer to the hon. Gentleman’s first question, the number of people we are accommodating has gone up from 48,000 to 60,000 as a result of our stopping move-ons over the summer. The system is under huge strain, and it is not reasonable to ask the taxpayer to accommodate people on an indefinite basis. We are doing this in a very careful and measured way. We are not doing it all in one go; we are doing it week by week, very slowly and carefully, and at all times in consultation with public health bodies.

I wonder whether the Minister could make me two promises today: first, to publish in Parliament the report of his evaluation of asylum accommodation and support in Glasgow, including the use of hotels and the tragic deaths that have occurred; and, secondly, to provide a copy of that report to the Lord Advocate, who is considering whether to initiate a fatal accident inquiry into the tragic deaths of asylum seekers in Glasgow during the lockdown?

As the hon. and learned Lady says, formal investigations are going on, and of course the Home Office will support them in any way that we are asked to. In relation to the internal review that is taking place, I have not received that report yet, but when I do, I will look at it carefully and consider how best to proceed thereafter. On the question of hotel use, I think we all agree that it is not ideal. We are working as rapidly as we can to reduce and eventually end the use of hotels, not just in the city of Glasgow but across the whole United Kingdom.