Investigating the use of temporary accommodation to house asylum seekers and refugees during the Covid-19 outbreak

Lead Research Organisation: Edinburgh Napier University
Department Name: School of Applied Science

Abstract

This project will explore the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on asylum seekers and refugees living in the UK. As reported by the Home Affairs Select Committee, asylum seekers are at 'heightened risk' in the context of Covid-19. The project will focus on those individuals placed in temporary accommodations such as hostels and hotels, using Glasgow as a base for the project as the local authority with the most dispersed asylum seekers in the UK. Recent moves by private sector firms to relocate asylum seekers into 'safe environments' have been widely criticised, particularly for the difficulties in maintaining physical distancing in new crowded, shared spaces thus increasing the risks of exposure to Covid-19. Organisations and stakeholders representing asylum seekers have reported the fear and distress that this move has caused for asylum seekers. In addition, this re-housing has also made it difficult for charities to provide support to affected individuals, who are moved often at short notice. The project will examine what the situation is currently on the ground, how the crisis has accentuated the risk for those seeking asylum and develop responses with migrant communities to create a genuinely 'safer environment' for asylum seekers. Adopting digital ethnographic methods co-designed and co-produced with grassroots migrant organisations, the project will deliver longer term impact through the development of co-produced creative outputs including a documentary and work with outreach groups to influence UK Government policies and public debate on asylum.
 
Description The empirical part of the project hasn't been completed yet, so there are no key findings to report. However, the project team recently (February) submitted written evidence to The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) in relation to an inspection of the use of hotels and barracks as contingency asylum accommodation. With the fieldwork still in progress, the submission was based on preliminary findings to highlight some of the key issues experienced by research participants with regard to accommodation. The ICIBI's call for evidence was timely and very relevant to the focus of the project, thus presenting a great opportunity for targeted impact. The inspection team has confirmed that it will look at the submission as part of the evidence gathering exercise - the project will update on any development arising from this review. More generally, other types of impact are also beginning to emerge from the fieldwork so far. Firstly, it is the empowering effect that laptops have had on the research participants. Since the skills workshops were held in December, most of the participants have been using their laptops not only to communicate with the community researchers but also for studying, including ESOL courses. Secondly, the engagement event with the local MPs which was held in February has had a clear impact on policy change in terms of carrying out an independent inspection with regard to the suitability of repurposed facilities used for housing asylum seekers in Glasgow. The project aims to follow the development of this policy change and monitor its impact further in the coming months.
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Submitted evidence to the British Academy's call for evidence 'Covid and Society: Shaping the Covid Decade'
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Submitted evidence to the The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) re: An inspection of the use of hotels and barracks as contingency asylum accommodation
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description Skills workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact A skills workshop was held on 15th December with research participants and two community researchers. There were 14 individuals in total who attended the event. The 2-hour event was organised to introduce participants to the research project, explain the project aims and objectives, how data will be collected, stored and disseminated. Research laptops were given to participants and then the project team helped them with registering the devices and setting them up. As well as getting help with basic issues such as setting up password, accessing the internet, participants were also shown how to make video call using Skype application and stay connected with the community researchers in the course of study. As well as the upskilling element, being in a possession of a laptop enabled participants to register for online courses and carry on with their learning during the pandemic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Skills workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact A skills workshop was held on 14th December with research participants and two community researchers. There were 11 individuals in total who attended the event. The 2-hour event was organised to introduce participants to the research project, explain the project aims and objectives, how data will be collected, stored and disseminated. Research laptops were given to participants and then the project team helped them with registering the devices and setting them up. As well as getting help with basic issues such as setting up password, accessing the internet, participants were also shown how to make video call using Skype application and stay connected with the community researchers in the course of study. The workshop was especially helpful for older participants who struggled more with laptops.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Meeting with local MPs 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A zoom meeting was organised on 11 February inviting two local MPs in Glasgow to hear directly the housing experiences of asylum-seeking women living a repurposed facility called 'Mothers and Baby' unit. The issues raised at the meeting were followed by the local MPs, who told the research team of two policy changes: firstly, an agreement was reached between the MPs and the accommodation provider for an independent investigation of the Unit and secondly, it was agreed that no more women will be moving to the unit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021