Concerns raised over 'squalid' Serco asylum seeker housing in Derby

Diane Taylor
·3 min read

A council is arranging an urgent inspection of asylum seeker accommodation in Derby after concerns were raised about conditions there.

Photos of the property seen by the Guardian show part of the kitchen ceiling missing, rubble in the base of a shower, cracked and missing tiles, rusted pipes and plaster missing from walls where wallpaper has peeled off. The garden is strewn with litter and discarded furniture.

There are about 61,000 people in Home Office accommodation. The majority are in shared housing, and about 10,000 are in hotel accommodation.

It has been reported that the Home Office is planning to accelerate moving people out of hotels and into housing, known as dispersed accommodation, in a scheme called Operation Oak.

One of the asylum seekers in the house in Derby was moved from a hotel in Birmingham just over a week ago. He said: “The conditions in this house are so bad they make normal life impossible. I have not been able to take a bath for a week because water was pouring from the bathroom through the kitchen ceiling.”

Serco, the company that has the Home Office contract for provision of accommodation in this part of the UK, was last year fined £2.6m for failings on a Home Office accommodation contract between September 2019 and January 2020. It had previously received a fine of £1m on another asylum seeker accommodation contract.

Serco told the Guardian last year it was broadly meeting its performance standards and had improved performance on addressing emergency maintenance issues and resolving people’s complaints.

Clare Moseley, the founder of the charity Care4Calais, which is providing support for many asylum seekers in various kinds of Home Office accommodation, said: “I am disgusted to see anyone living in conditions as squalid as these. We have recently witnessed the Home Office’s uncaring attitude towards asylum seekers in hotel accommodation. What are we going to see next in dispersal accommodation?”

Related: Revealed: shocking death toll of asylum seekers in Home Office accommodation

Sarah Burnett, Serco’s operations director for immigration, said: “Looking after the asylum seekers in our care and ensuring that they are kept safe is always our first priority. When complaints are raised our team of professional housing officers, maintenance and gas engineers responds and investigates and corrects the problems as and where they exist. We do this within strict timetables laid down in our contract.”

Serco sources said one communal bathroom was working and one was being “isolated” to stop leaks going through the ceiling into the kitchen and that part of the kitchen ceiling had been removed to fix the leaks. The sources acknowledged that the working shower cubicle, which is covered in black mould, was in need of minor repairs and a thorough clean.

“There is rubbish in the garden, which is partly due to refurbishment work and partly due to previous occupants leaving it there; Covid has prevented the timely removal of all this, but that will be put right in the coming days,” Burnett added. She said the kitchen had been fully refurbished last summer.

A spokesperson for Derby city council said: “Based on the evidence provided in the photos, Derby city council does have concerns regarding the condition of the property. The council’s housing standards team will be inspecting this property as a matter of urgency. A discussion has taken place with Serco and we are in the process of arranging an inspection.”