Birmingham Fair Housing Campaign
Updated: Jun 23, 2021
This evening, Shelter organised an online Zoom campaign meeting, focusing on asylum housing which is to be included in the Birmingham Fair Housing Campaign. They are developing a 'People's manifesto for Fair Housing' that puts people before profit. We were present to give the examples of the women we assist and to think about how the system can be improved for those seeking protection.
At the meeting we heard from Espoir about her experience of living in asylum accommodation. She outlined the difficulties of getting her everyday needs met, as well as repairs that should be fixed as standard. Before detailing the difficulties of this situation and the quality of council temporary accommodation, I gave the attached presentation from the Baobab Women's Project. It discussed what the system entails, as well as sharing some of the experiences that some of our women have encountered. Moving on, Emma Birks from Asylum Matters talked about the national context and the provision of contracts, how they have moved away from local authority oversight and difficulties in monitoring standards (more info provided on their webpage here). Dave Stamp from Asylum, Support & Immigration Resource Team (ASIRT) briefly reviewed more issues with the asylum accommodation, reflecting on the old council contracts, the nutritional guidelines, what people are eating, plus an unlawful eviction in IA accommodation and his treatment when challenging them. This provokes dread as to what this means for residents without "white man, professional social capital". Before detailing the move on from NRPF section 17 accommodation, where children and families struggle with homelessness when given 7 days to leave their accommodation.
Each talk increased the understanding of what asylum housing is (lacking corporate business) who runs it (Home Office, SERCO, MEARS, Clearsprings and their subcontracted providers) and what the problems people involved are experiencing when living within it (rats, mould, water leakages). We need to be united to address why this system is in a crisis. Why do you need an advocate to get respect within the system?
The aim of the meeting was to develop a set of asks/demands to fix the problems that asylum seekers are experiencing in our city. Can the local authority take more responsibility for asylum housing? Where is the budget to do this - can funding support and powers be given to the local authority? How can the system be reformed? There's more asylum lived experience groups raising issues, linking to campaigns and hearing voices.
Undoubtedly there is a massive housing crisis, but the people who are seeking protection, or are undocumented appear to be at the behest of rogue landlords. This is further fueled by the institutional racism that exists, affecting people who have suffered extensive trauma and probably have mental distress- we need to hold these people accountable and have proper checks on people offering accommodation.
There are just so many problems with the system and there are constant campaigns - read more, change happens slowly so stay inspired and connected. Join the campaign for fair housing in Birmingham - contact BFHC@shelter.org.uk