‘Alternative Approaches to Asylum Accommodation’

4 July 2023

On Friday 23rd June 2023, as part of Refugee Festival Scotland, our Advocacy and Campaigns team hosted an online workshop exploring ‘Alternative Approaches to Asylum Accommodation’.

We started by looking at the recent history of asylum accommodation; in 2020, people seeking safety were moved with little to no notice out of dispersal accommodation into communal hotel accommodation, a move that was presented as a means to meet COVID-19 protection. In the following years, we have seen the increased use of quasi-detention sites, including Manston Processing Facility, and Napier Barracks. As the Illegal Migration Bill progresses through the House of Lords, and news of new sites such as the Bibby Stockholm emerge, it is more relevant than ever to discuss how asylum accommodation can be rethought. 

In the second part of our workshop, our participants spoke about their experiences in asylum accommodation in the UK. They shared the impacts of the insecurity and hostility of current accommodation and the difficulties of navigating the system. Here are some quotes from the participants:

“While we were living at hotels, most of us feel abandoned and desperate without any news about our interviews, feeling isolated and disconnected from communities.”

“A very difficult situation that I have been living for more than 17 months, the condition and the service of the hotel is very difficult to bear [...] with no news from the home office, no interviews [...] leads to depression, lack of sleep, suicidal thoughts since despair settles in the brain.”

“Of course, I didn’t know my rights, and even if I did, it would be of no use because they (Mears Group & Home Office) are always scaring us (asylum seekers)”

“The most difficult thing I've ever had is waiting for the interview for more than a year, and guess what, I'm still waiting!”

Collectively, we spoke of the UK-wide failure to properly house people seeking safety. So often, those seeking safety and security are left without a sanctuary or home. We discussed the possibilities for change within the asylum system; some spoke of the need for free transport passes, whilst others suggested that cooking facilities and the right to work could help to rework the asylum accommodation system. Participants agreed that we need fundamental changes to asylum accommodation; hostility should not be prioritised over safe and adequate housing.  

We will be continuing to speak to our participants and audience about what was discussed, and to build the #CommunitiesNotCamps campaign, fighting for the rights of people seeking asylum to safe and secure housing. As one of the workshop participants stated: 

“I now know that I wasn't crazy for asking to be treated with compassion for years. I wasn't a weakling for breaking down under the pressure of decades of abuse. I now know that love, kindness and support heals even the deepest wounds. And I now know that HOPE is essential for life.”


Iona Taylor- Advocacy and Campaigns Lead


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