People seeking sanctuary excluded from vital housing safety regulation


Over one hundred and thirty organisations have signed a letter to the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman MP, and to the levelling-up secretary, Michael Gove MP, voicing their extreme concerns about regulations currently being considered by Parliament to remove licensing requirements for asylum accommodation.

The open letter co-authored by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL) and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) amassed 137 signatories, including Crisis, the Refugee Council and Amnesty International.

It calls for Ministers to abandon plans that would see asylum-seekers housed in unsafe accommodation with inadequate protections against fire and overcrowding.

Gavin Smart, chief executive at Chartered Institute of Housing stated:

“The licensing scheme for houses that are multi-occupied are designed to keep people safe, especially safe from fire. They need to apply to everyone, including people seeking sanctuary in the UK. That’s why we’re calling on the government to drop its proposal to exempt asylum accommodation from the HMO licencing arrangements.”

The letter notes that the strain on the asylum accommodation system is due to excessive delays in asylum decision-making and the fact that those seeking asylum are not allowed to work. The letter urges the Home Office to address these problems rather than deny people seeking sanctuary the basic accommodation rights that should be afforded to all tenants.

Mary Atkinson at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said:

“This government is essentially proposing a two-tier system of housing, with fundamental human rights for people born here but not for those who come here seeking safety. This is outrageous. Everyone deserves a home that is decent and safe – by stripping away these protections for people seeking sanctuary, this Government is putting people’s lives at risk. It must instead act to quickly and fairly process asylum claims, and make sure local authorities are properly resourced to provide safe housing for all who need it.”

The letter asks government to redouble efforts to ensure that asylum accommodation is safe, healthy and secure, rather than removing HMO licensing requirements. The letter was sent with a further, detailed briefing document for all MPs to consider.

Nick Beales, head of campaigning, at Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (Ramfel) commented:

“Whilst appalling under any circumstances, the government appears to have made this decision following lobbying by private companies whose motivation is solely profit driven. Rather than prioritising increased profits for these companies, the government should be focused on ensuring that housing provided to asylum seekers is safe, sanitary and allows them to best settle into their local communities.

“If the government was truly committed to reducing the numbers of refugees in asylum support accommodation, their focus would be on processing claims, granting people leave to remain and allowing them to work whilst decisions on their claims are made. Instead, this is more vicious cruelty that puts vulnerable peoples’ lives at risk.

“We call on the government to reverse these punitive changes and guarantee basic housing standards for all UK residents.”