Home Office preparedness for COVID-19 (Coronavirus): institutional accommodation Contents


1.We launched an inquiry into Home Office preparedness for Covid-19 (Coronavirus) on 12 March 2020. As part of this inquiry we held an oral evidence session on institutional accommodation and received more than 30 pieces of written evidence addressing this issue.1

2.In the wake of Covid-19 measures being introduced, concerns have been raised as to the impact of these government policies on migrants and asylum seekers. This short report examines the steps taken by the Home Office and institutional accommodation providers to uphold the safety and wellbeing of individuals housed in Government-contracted asylum accommodation and immigration detention both during and after the national Covid-19 lockdown period in the spring of 2020.

3.On 7 May we heard oral evidence on institutional accommodation from John Taylor, Chief Operating Officer, Mears Housing Management, Steve Lakey, Managing Director, Clearsprings Ready Homes, Sarah Burnett, Business Operations Director, Justice and Immigration, Serco and Colin Dobell, Managing Director, Mitie Care and Custody.2

4.On 26 June 6 people, including a police officer, were stabbed (non-fatally) at the Park Inn hotel in Glasgow by Badreddin Abadlla Adam. Mr Adam was shot and killed by specialist police officers responding to the incident. The hotel was being used by Mears as accommodation for asylum seekers during the pandemic. As a police investigation was under way as this report was finalised, the specific circumstances of the incident are not considered. We send our best wishes to those affected and our gratitude for the bravery and dedication of the emergency service workers who responded.

Structure of this report

5.Chapter one of this report deals with asylum accommodation. It examines the asylum accommodation providers’ initial response to Covid-19 including the steps which were taken to accommodate their service users safely, whether in initial accommodation, hotels or other forms of emergency accommodation. We also consider the key concerns raised in evidence to us by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and statutory bodies about the challenges posed by Covid-19. These include evidence of limited communication and Home Office guidance to key stakeholders, doubts about the suitability of asylum accommodation (e.g. bedroom sharing between unrelated adults), and shortcomings in the provision of appropriate support for vulnerable individuals including minors, people with disabilities, elderly or pregnant people, or those who have been subject to violence or abuse.

6.The Committee previously reported on asylum accommodation in January 2017 and in December 2018.3

7.Chapter two focuses on immigration removal centres (IRCs). It examines how Home Office contracted IRC managers, namely Serco and Mitie Care & Custody, have responded to the challenges brought by Covid-19. We consider to what extent adequate protection from Covid-19 is being provided by IRC managers for both vulnerable detainees and frontline IRC staff through access to testing, enabling of appropriate social distancing, and the cleanliness of IRCs.

8.The Committee previously reported on immigration detention in 2019.4

1 All written evidence submitted to the inquiry on the Home Office’s preparedness for Covid-19 (Coronavirus) can be found on the inquiry page on the Committee’s website.

2 A written transcript of this evidence session can be viewed here.

3 Home Affairs Committee, Twelfth Report of Session 2016–17, Asylum accommodation, HC 637, 31 January 2017; Home Affairs Committee, Thirteenth Report of Session 2017–19, Asylum accommodation: replacing COMPASS, HC 1758, 17 December 2018

4 Home Affairs Committee, Fourteenth Report of Session 2017–19, Immigration detention, HC 913, 21 March 2019

Published: 28 July 2020