Throughout our response to the coronavirus pandemic, we have been clear that we take the well-being of all those in the asylum system extremely seriously.
In these unprecedented times, we have adjusted asylum processes and procedures where necessary and appropriate to adapt to these changes.
The Government is committed to supporting everybody through this crisis and nobody should find themselves destitute.
We have also put in place a range of measures to specifically support asylum seekers affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
- During these unprecedented times we have worked tirelessly with local authorities and other partners to provide asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, with suitable accommodation – as we are required to do by law.
- Asylum seekers receive accommodation and support whilst their asylum claims are being assessed and that has been the case throughout the current pandemic. This is paid for by the taxpayer so there is no cost to the individual.
- We have worked with Public Health advisers throughout the coronavirus outbreak to inform a national approach, adjusted to account for local concerns. We remain in regular dialogue with public health officials.
- A wide range of measures have been implemented to ensure guidance on social distancing and self-isolation is properly applied.
- In recent months we have faced additional challenges which have required us in some instances to use temporary accommodation, including hotels, to fulfil or statutory obligations to house destitute asylum seekers whilst their claims are examined.
- Historically, providers have used contingency accommodation during peaks in demand and the contracts allow for this. Contingency accommodation is used across several sectors as emergency accommodation.
- We continue to consult local authorities about hotel use and where we place new asylum seekers entering the support system.
- Those placed in hotel accommodation receive free meals, toiletries and other support.
- We continually engage with partners to ensure any concerns from the local community are addressed.
- All service users have access to a 24/7 Advice, Issue reporting and Eligibility service provided for the Home Office by Migrant Help where they can raise any concerns regarding accommodation or support services. In hotels, there is dedicated space for the resident welfare officer to work and daily visits conducted to every service user - if self-isolating they will be called by the welfare manger while on site. Welfare Officers are on site from 9am to 5pm.
- The Home Office communicates daily with accommodation providers around performance, delivery, and the welfare of our service users.
- Those who were already in the support system and accommodated in houses and flats will continue to receive a cash allowance to cover their other essential living needs. If they are accommodated in full board then all accommodation, utilities, meals and essentials are provided by the accommodation provider and a cash allowance is not paid.
- The weekly cash allowance provided to asylum seekers is reviewed each year to make sure it is sufficient. We recently announced an above inflation increase to the allowance.
- We took decisive action to continue to provide accommodation for those granted asylum and failed asylum seekers while lockdown restrictions were in place. In line with the latest public health advice, we are now moving people out of this support in a phased way which will reduce demand on contingency accommodation.
Use of MoD sites
- Given the pressure on the system, we worked at pace to explore options to accommodate asylum seekers. Following a review of available government property, the MOD agreed to temporarily hand over two of their sites in Kent and Pembrokeshire which are now being used to house asylum seekers.
- We are continuing to engage with partners to ensure any concerns from the local community are addressed.
- The government is working with a range of partners and across departments to secure further accommodation and the Ministry of Defence has offered use of some of its sites
- But recognising the need to continue to build capacity in the short term, whilst there remains significant pressure in the system, we have been exploring further options to accommodate asylum seekers.
- As a temporary response to coronavirus the Home Office has increased screening facilities across the UK to facilitate asylum applications. This will allow asylum claims to be made in a safe way that adheres to social distancing guidance.
- This is a proportionate response to the risks posed by coronavirus, and is in line with Government guidance.
- The Asylum Intake Unit (AIU) in Croydon will continue to operate as normal but will additionally be supported by limited operations in Glasgow, Belfast, Liverpool, Leeds, Solihull and Cardiff. These new locations will enable asylum seekers to attend appointments without having to travel long distances.
- We are confident these will be to meet the demands of asylum registrations within the geographical areas and will not operate a 5-day service. There is no need to go further to introduce online appointments.
- We have temporarily cancelled all face-to-face asylum interviews due to the coronavirus outbreak. We are continuing to work on establishing an alternative process to support interviewing and interpreting and once finalised, will be in a position to restart interviews when it is safe to do so.
- We are continuing to make decisions on cases where we have already interviewed the claimant, or we have sufficient information to allow us to make a decision. We now have an agreed process to enable the service of decisions via email which has been shared through the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) and the Law Society.
- We have paused decision making on any case where medico-legal reports (MLR) are delayed due to medical professionals who complete them being asked to work on the coronavirus response for the NHS.
- We have contacted representatives through ILPA and the Law Society to advise that all information in relation asylum claims be sent in via email rather than post or fax. This is to ensure that the most up to date information can still be received by the Home Office and linked to the relevant files effectively during this time.
Note: Updated on 22 September.