Monday, 18 January 2010


An alliance of faith, citizen and refugee groups conducted an inspection of the homes allocated to people seeking sanctuary across Greater Manchester on Saturday 16th January to identify and highlight poor treatment at the hands of private housing providers with government contracts.

Local citizens from more than 20 organisations participated in the Greater Manchester CITIZENS for Sanctuary campaign which they hope will result in decent housing for people seeking sanctuary from the three private housing providers. Happy Homes, United Property Management and Priority Properties North West are contracted by the UK Border Agency to provide housing to people seeking sanctuary in the North West of England according to agreed standards and response times for repairs.

But a listening campaign run by Greater Manchester CITIZENS for Sanctuary has revealed that housing problems are consistently ignored. These have included a cockroach infestation, a raw sewage leak, overcrowding and broken heating and hot water systems in the middle of winter.

Eve, from war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, is living in a house swarming with cockroaches. They are present throughout the house, including in the kitchen and in her bedroom. She keeps all her belongings zipped up in plastic bags as they get into everything, and she is too afraid to use the kitchen for cooking. Eve and another resident have reported the problem repeatedly for 8 months but her housing provider has not done anything to deal with the cockroaches.

Frustrated at seeing vulnerable people in their community being treated unfairly, residents from across Greater Manchester joined together to form their own Citizen Housing Inspection Teams to assess the quality of housing against the UK Border Agency’s own guidelines. They have written to the UK Border Agency’s Regional Director, Jo Liddy, requesting a meeting to discuss the results of their Citizen Housing Inspections.

Father Peter Conniffe, priest at Our Lady of Dolours in Salford and a leader with Greater Manchester CITIZENS for Sanctuary, said:

“As local citizens, we want to make sure that our taxes are being spent wisely and that we are not giving lots of money to irresponsible landlords who force slum housing on people who have come to the UK seeking sanctuary. The three housing providers have a responsibility to meet the terms of their contracts. We hope that Jo Liddy, UKBA Regional Director, will meet with us to find ways that we can sort this problem out.”

Esther, a Zimbabwean doctor who fled the Mugabe regime, explained:

“We had a very old toilet in my house which was always breaking. They finally replaced it after two years but didn’t fit it properly. In October, sewage water started leaking through the ceiling into our living room. We kept on reporting the problem but we were left in this situation for an entire month. Eventually they came and fixed the pipe but did nothing about the soiled carpet. I don’t want any special favours – but nobody likes living in a house that smells of sewage.”

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