Home Office should have given asylum seekers money to phone friends and family
A High Court judge has ruled that asylum seekers who were being housed in hotels during the pandemic should have been given money by the Home Office so that they could make calls to their friends and family.
The ruling means that the Home Office may be forced to backdate weekly payments to around 10,000 asylum seekers who were affected by their decision.
Judge Farbey ruled that being able to communicate by phone was essential for “interpersonal and social relationships, as well as for cultural and religious life”
Earlier ruling for essential living costs
An earlier hearing found that the Home Office had wrongfully denied to pay for other essential living costs for asylum seekers housed in hotels.
In August 2020 Home Office officials urged Priti Patel to make payments of £12.11 a week to asylum seekers in hotels to cover essential living needs. However, the recommendation was rejected with the excuse that “the asylum system already appears more generous than European equivalents and we do not want to further increase any possible pull factors”.
As a result of the earlier hearing in relation to living costs the Home Office agreed to make payments and late payments of £8 a week to cover these costs, estimating to have cost £4 million. However, the cost of phone calls was not included as part of this which is why a separate hearing was required.
Housing of asylum seekers during the pandemic
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Home Office has increased its use of hotels, hostels and barracks to house asylum seekers by almost tenfold.
Many asylum seekers have been housed in these accommodation types for months whilst previously asylum seekers were generally only housed in this type of temporary accommodation for a few weeks and therefore were not given money to fund essentials.
The temporary accommodation used to house asylum seekers during the COVID-19 pandemic has come under intense scrutiny with many reports of unsafe conditions likened to detention centres, little communication and outbreaks of COVID-19.
A study from Edinburgh Napier University found that:
“Relocating asylum seekers to hotel-type accommodation had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing, and that they found social distancing almost impossible in their new environment.”
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