Tuesday, 9 March 2010


An alliance of faith, citizen and refugee groups is celebrating success after the UK Border Agency’s Regional Director of Operations, Eddy Montgomery, agreed to take action on substandard housing conditions for people seeking sanctuary in Greater Manchester.

Greater Manchester CITIZENS for Sanctuary presented Mr Montgomery and the UKBA’s Head of Contracts, Mark Blackledge, with a report showing the shocking results of a citizen inspection exercise in January, when local people visited houses provided by private accommodation providers on behalf of the UKBA.

The Unhappy Homes report documents some of the horrifying conditions people seeking sanctuary in the North West are forced to endure, and the failure of private housing providers to fulfil their contracts and deal effectively with problems in the houses. In 70% of the houses visited, there was no access to either a washing machine or a laundrette. In 65% of the houses the residents had not been provided with the means to clean their home. Pest infestations were a particular problem in the twenty houses visited – rats were present in 2 houses, mice in 3 houses, ants in 2 houses and cockroaches in 3 houses. In one case featured in the report, a woman resorted to sleeping with the lights on to stop the cockroaches crawling onto her bed. Despite complaining to her housing provider nearly every day for the last four months, nothing has been done to eradicate the cockroach infestation.

In addition to promising swift action to resolve issues such as the cockroach infestation, Mr Montgomery agreed to work with Greater Manchester CITIZENS for Sanctuary to improve the induction process for people who have fled persecution and who move in to Manchester, and to explore the idea of a ‘Sanctuary Mark’ which would be awarded to housing providers who provide good quality housing and customer service.

Reverend John Simmons, a leader with Greater Manchester CITIZENS for Sanctuary, said:
“We were delighted that Mr Montgomery at the UK Border Agency is taking the Unhappy Homes report seriously. He has promised simple practical actions that will make life better for people who live in these homes - for example, ensuring that the housing providers know that they need to provide a lockable bedroom door or a lockable wardrobe so that people can protect their belongings. This is a great achievement for Greater Manchester CITIZENS for Sanctuary.”

Daniel Murphy, of the UNITE trade union and a leader with Greater Manchester CITIZENS Sanctuary, said:
“As a taxpayer, I want my money to be used effectively and at the moment the housing providers are breaking their contractual agreement with the UKBA. It’s a scandal that we’re paying these landlords to do provide such an appalling service. I’m glad the UKBA is now listening to our concerns and we are going to monitor the complaints system over the next few months to ensure housing defects, infestations and faulty appliances are being dealt with quickly and effectively.”

Eddy Montgomery, Director of Operations for the UK Border Agency in the North West, said:

"We are always keen to hear the views of our stakeholders and I am pleased with the constructive nature of discussions with CITIZENS for Sanctuary. The UK Border Agency treats asylum seekers with dignity and respect and as such we require accommodation providers to comply with a comprehensive statement of requirements for all accommodation which includes an obligation to comply with Local Authorities housing standards.”

1 comment:

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