Alex Sobel, MP for Leeds North West, spoke out in Parliament last week about the poor condition of housing for asylum seekers in Leeds, describing a “neglectful regime” from outsourcing companies operating “like vultures”.
Private security firms are responsible for providing the majority of accommodation for asylum seekers in UK, with G4S the main provider in Leeds. MPs heard how individuals seeking refugee status are routinely placed in unsafe and unsuitable accommodation, with cockroaches, vermin and damp identified as some of the main issues.
Mr Sobel accused the Government of a commitment to outsourcing “no matter the human cost” and criticised “the growing of private profits at the expense of the public and the vulnerable”.
He also described visiting a mother and baby facility in his constituency, saying:
“On visiting the house, the first thing that struck me was the stickiness underfoot and the smell of urine. That was the result of an earlier rat infestation, which was reported to G4S and ignored.
Although the local church stepped in and blocked the rats’ entrance to the bedroom, the carpet remained coated in rat urine.
A toddler crawling over the carpet had a skin infection. Her mother told me, ‘there is nowhere else for her to go’.
That was not strictly true. Her baby could have crawled in the hallway, where a missing baby gate left a steep set of stairs exposed—something of which G4S had been informed months before.
Or perhaps the child could crawl around the kitchen, where rat poison was left on the floor and mould covered every wall.”
Other MPs also described the long delays in fixing problems, with one Labour MP relaying a case “in which for six months and after 30 telephone calls, G4S failed to deal with accommodation where there was damp and cockroach and rat infestation”.
Mr Sobel and other MPs have called for independent oversight of the asylum accommodation contracts, reportedly worth around £4 billion, which are currently out to tender.