Thank you for contacting me about asylum accommodation conditions, in particular the Napier and Penally Barracks.
As you will be aware, the Home Office is required by law to provide asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute with accommodation, paid for by the taxpayer.
To help stop the spread of coronavirus and ensure distancing guidelines were followed, the Government temporarily ceased ending asylum support for those whose claims have been granted or refused hence since March, the number of people within the asylum system has risen.
The onset of winter and the third national lockdown required the Government to act quickly to source contingency accommodation to create additional capacity and to ensure statutory obligations were met in full.
I have been assured by the Home Office that these accommodations are temporary. It is much better that we look at community alternatives to the provision of accommodation rather than increasing the immigration estate. It is better for people to be living in the community and the present measures must remain a temporary one until the overall pressures ease, so that we can again move back to a community-based approach and effective compliance with immigration requirements and, where necessary, enforcement of those requirements.
Although the present situation with the provision of this temporary accommodation is different to detention for immigration purposes, there are similarities. I have a long record of arguing against immigration detention believing that the system is ineffective, unjust and costly. I was co-author of a Parliamentary report on Immigration Detention (which is available herehttps://detentioninquiry.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/immigration-detent…) and I have spoken in Parliament on multiple occasions against the use of detention; in favour of community centred alternative.
The government is likely to bring forward new arrangements on immigration processes, likely to affect asylum seekers and refugees. There is, in principle, much to be gained by improving the current system which has some absurdities that can prolong specious applications, but this is also, in my view, an opportunity to create change to improve the sensitivity, accuracy and humanity of how we handle asylum seekers and refugees. I will be working with MPs of all parties to see how we can ensure any new Bill can make these changes.
I will continue to monitor the situation very closely to ensure the UK continues to meet its obligations and commitments and to see the timely ending of these temporary facilities.
Richard Fuller MP