£4 billion of new contracts in asylum accommodation scheme criticised for "squalid, unsafe slum conditions"
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The UK government has announced the signing of £4 billion of new contracts in an accommodation scheme that in its previous incarnation was criticised for leaving asylum seekers living in "squalid, unsafe slum conditions".
The new contracts have been awarded to Serco, Clearsprings and Mears Group.
Serco and Clearsprings both also held contracts under the previous scheme, known as COMPASS, alongside G4S, which has not won any of the new tenders.
The new arrangements - which according to the government "offer a range of improvements, with a particular focus on assisting individuals through the asylum system" - have been dubbed the Asylum Accommodation and Support Services Contracts (AASC).
Accommodation will still be provided to asylum seekers through the "dispersal" system, under which people seeking protection are given no choice about where they live or who provides their acommodation.
The announcement of the new contracts comes after longstanding criticism of the housing provided to asylum seekers, following which the Home Office produced an 'Asylum Support - Assurance Action Plan' which promised numerous improvements.
Those who have been monitoring the situation for sometime are likely to be less optimistic than the Home Office about the new contracts, particularly given that both Serco and Clearsprings were involved in running the housing scheme previously.
The new contracts begin in September 2019 and are due to run for 10 years.
Home Office press release: New asylum accommodation contracts awarded (pdf)
An inspection of the Home Office's management of asylum accommodation provision - report by Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (Statewatch News Online, 21 November 2018): includes the Home Office response and the Asylum Support - Assurance Action Plan.
UK asylum seekers living in 'squalid, unsafe slum conditions' (The Guardian, 27 October 2017, link)
Poor asylum seeker housing conditions criticised (BBC News, 4 December 2016, link)
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