Housing firms have been banned from forcing refugees to share bedrooms with strangers by council chiefs.
Newcastle City Council’s cabinet backed the proposals at the cabinet meeting on 20 March 2017 where councillors were told some companies contracted by central Government to house asylum seekers in the city often force strangers to share rooms despite undergoing trauma and not even sharing a language.
The contract, through central Government, is operated by Jomast and G4S in the North East.
A report to members revealed the problem and said to date only a handful of authorities have taken a stand against the measures.
Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “What we want to ensure is that when people are housed they are housed in conditions that we find acceptable.
This is not picking up on a particular problem, it’s more heading off a potential problem that has started to emerge in other areas, and we are just being very clear with the private sector that people who are fleeing war and torture won’t find themselves in a situation where they are being economically exploited.”
Although it is common for firms to house a number of families in housing with communal kitchen and bathroom facilities, councillors said it was unacceptable for them to be denied privacy when they sleep.
Councillors heard an increase in the number of asylum seekers housed in Newcastle combined with the experience of people in some other local authorities had created a need for tighter controls.
The cabinet approved a new asylum accommodation standards policy, which is set to be implemented next month, which will ban enforced room sharing among people who aren’t related.
The new document also sets out the limits on the number of asylum seekers who can be housed within individual areas of the city, as well as the consultation process required to ensure public services in areas where asylum seekers are housed have sufficient capacity to accommodate them.
It will ensure all properties used to house asylum seekers have been assessed for the risk of social tension, as well as the “cultural compatibility of the environment”.
The policy applies to people awaiting decisions on their asylum claims.
Though the city council doesn’t provide the service, it can place restrictions on how properties in Newcastle are used to house asylum seekers.