This practice is where asylum seekers are given no option but to share a bedroom with others, potentially of a completely different faith or culture, and with no shared language to communicate with each other. There are problems where those of different ages are put together, and from places at war with each other. Worse still are other incompatibilities. Because of trauma gone through, those that need the light on all night and those that need darkness. Those with a range of mental illness and those with physical difficulties with particular needs. Gay and straight. There is no choice and the situation can last for years. Most of these issues have been recorded in evidence given to Tees Valley of Sanctuary this year, in this document (link). Evidence from last year, drawn up for the Home Affairs Select Committee is here (link).
We now know that Newcastle Council has lost the tribunal case to landlord Jomast on forced shared bedrooms for asylum seekers, so room sharing there can continue, and everywhere else in the North East where Jomast is the landlord (subcontracted from G4S, who have the Home Office contract). We are unclear where else in the country this is happening and welcome feedback.
In the meantime Sheffield Council has been able to ban all forced room sharing in rented accommodation in the city, through adaptations to its HMO regulations.
The new contract for provision of accommodation for asylum seekers is currently out to tender, in a contract that will last for 10 years. It allows for such room sharing, except for vulnerable people. There is no definition of what they class as vulnerable. Questions as to how this will be managed, and other issues around this, are not being answered by the Home Office.
As Liberal Democrats we strongly believe in the need for those seeking sanctuary here to have differences respected, and to be able to live with dignity. We condemn forced bedroom sharing of unrelated adults for anyone living in our country.
We urge all local authorities who have asylum seeker accommodation under the dispersal contract in their area to look closely at the Sheffield scheme, and adopt policies that put an end to this degrading practice that benefits nobody, except the landlords who are paid by the Home Office for the number of people they can accommodate.