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‘Failing’ new Home Office contract leave many asylum seekers destitute and more vulnerable

City of Sanctuary has joined over 100 local and national organisations across the country to raise concerns and the need for an urgent action to address the failings in the new Home Office contract for asylum support.

The new service, known as Advice, Issue Reporting and Eligibility Assistance services (Aire) delivered by Migrant Help, is intended to provide advice and guidance to people seeking sanctuary on the asylum process.

However, it has resulted in drastically increased waiting times for asylum support applicants, leaving many destitute and forced to rely on local charities to meet their basic living needs.

Organisations dealing with the fallout from this poor service have written to the Minister for Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins MP, calling for urgent action.

The Charities stressed that the Home Office which awarded the contract last September has ultimate responsibility for the management and oversight of this contract as the delivery of asylum support and accommodation is a public service delivered through public funds.

The Independent covered the story, referring mainly to the impact of the service on resolving urgent accommodation issues. The issue was also raised in Parliament including by Alex Cunningham MP and in the Home Affairs Select Committee’s evidence session, when Kate Green MP questioned the Home Secretary about her awareness of problems relating to the AIRE service. The Home Secretary replied, “it has been drawn to my attention that there are issues and problems with this contract,”  and agreed to write to the Committee with further details, which you can now find here.  A recent communication from Migrant Help outline steps they are taking to resolve the concerns.

In the next couple of weeks, Asylum Matters will be launching several resources to support front-line organisations to help people seeking asylum know their rights and hold the providers to account in accordance with the contractual framework. Asylum Matters will also be working with other partners over the coming months to document the failings of the current contracts and to work towards improvements.  City of Sanctuary groups interested in taking part in this work, please get in touch with Asylum Matters.