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Rise in unsuitable accommodation for asylum seekers has damaging impact on mental health issues, report reveals

A RISE in unsuitable accommodation for asylum-seekers is making existing mental health problems worse and creating new ones, a charity has warned. 

The damning report by the British Red Cross, published today, said its services are seeing a marked deterioration in the mental health of people living in the Home Office’s support system and a rise in “complex safeguarding concerns.” 

The charity said that between January 2020 and February 2021, it has supported 400 individuals with suicidal thoughts or who attempted to take their lives. 

It said there is an increasing amount of unsuitable accommodation for people fleeing war, violence and persecution, which has “exacerbated existing mental health problems and [is] creating new ones.”

The report shares the experience of Firooz, who was been moved between different hotels during the pandemic. He said he did not feel safe, or free, in the accommodation, while his room was poorly cleaned and there were “bugs everywhere.”

“They had my keys and came and searched my room and I don’t know why,” he said.

“I jumped from the second floor of the hotel because I wasn’t in a safe place. When I was in the hotel I would hurt myself, as my mental health was not good.”

The report also highlighted the impact on those living alongside people with mental health problems, who were not receiving any support.

“We heard about their experiences of living with people who were hallucinating, screaming at night, becoming aggressive and showing signs of self-neglect, in one case to the point where the property smelt of faeces,” it said. 

British Red Cross chief executive Mike Adamson said: “We are very concerned about the living conditions asylum-seekers are facing as they wait months for their application to be processed.

“We have heard from people without basic items like clean clothing, staying in rooms in disrepair, or with serious medical needs that have been ignored.”

The findings are based on the accounts of more than 100 people living in various asylum accommodation and reports from Red Cross staff and volunteers, who last year supported 30,000 people.

It comes as the Home Office is set to resume evictions from their accommodation of some asylum-seekers whose claims have been refused. 

A Home Office spokeswoman said the department rejected the claims and insisted it takes the wellbeing of people in the asylum system seriously.


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