John Harris

Journalist & Author

Rats, mould and broken furniture: the scandal of the UK’s refugee housing

The Home Office says that asylum seekers deserve ‘safe, habitable’ homes. What too many of them get is filth and squalor

The cramped upstairs box room was meant to be used by one of Duminda’s children, but it is not in a fit state. An old mattress is propped up against the wall, and behind it is an expanse of black-green mould. In the downstairs bathroom, there is similarly widespread damp, and a smell that suggests the problem is serious. “We worry about the kids’ health,” Duminda tells me.

He and his partner, Kriti, are both from Sri Lanka. If either of them were to return, he says, they would be at risk of violence and imprisonment. He received his last asylum refusal from the Home Office two years ago; she was turned down around the same time. They are now preparing a fresh claim, and anxiously waiting.

It is the responsibility of our Compass contractors to provide accommodation that is safe, habitable, fit for purpose

You can actually hear the rats, chewing and gnawing at the floorboards, and running around. And that’s scary

Related: How do you live on £36.95 a week? Asylum seekers on surviving on their allowance

They put me in a house with two people in each bedroom. No privacy. And in the winter, no heater

Related: ‘I want to study and play sport’ – a young asylum seeker in Britain, one year on

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