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Tories push asylum seekers into ‘hazardous housing’ 

Troublemaker looks at the week's news including the Tories want dangerous housing for migrants, getting in debt to pay bill and foodbanks on the rise again
Issue 2853
STand up to racism protested at Downing strett agasint the visit to Britain of the fascist italian prime minister

Stand Up To Racism protest at Downing Street against the visit of the fascist Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The government has quietly published plans to legalise ­“hazardous” accommodation for thousands of asylum seekers in England. In a move labelled “shameful” and an “assault on human rights” by housing and refugee charities, a new draft law proposes removing landlords’ obligation to get an HMO (house in multiple occupation) licence if they are providing accommodation to vulnerable asylum seekers.

“These licences are probably the ­central part of council enforcement of housing standards,” says John-Luke Bolton, a caseworker for housing ­charity Safer Renting. “The government is basically saying for asylum seekers, ‘We’re going to house people here. It is a property that isn’t necessarily fit for human ­habitation, but we don’t care’.”

A report by the charity Migrant Voice recently revealed that asylum seekers in non-HMO accommodation are facing dire living conditions as they wait for their claims to be processed. That included being forced to live in ­windowless rooms smaller than prison cells for over a year. It also meant sharing larger rooms with as many as ten strangers and spending days in their underwear because they only were given one change of clothes. These conditions were leaving asylum seekers “despondent and suicidal”.

HMO licences are the main way authorities ensure homes filled with large numbers of people do not become a major fire risk. They are normally required for all ­private rented properties that house five or more people from multiple households. Councils grant them if the building meets government guidelines. These include that it isn’t ­dangerously overcrowded, in disrepair, damp or mouldy.

Removing the licence requirement is seen as a way to speed up the process of landlords offering up asylum accommodation, without having to wait for an inspection to be completed. It will also make it easier for them to claim public cash for doing so. The government currently houses tens of thousands of asylum seekers in a network of B&Bs, social housing and privately rented homes while their ­applications for asylum are processed. Those private landlords often work through intermediaries like ­outsourcing giant Serco, which boasts of having a portfolio of more than 7,000 properties for asylum seekers.

Food bank use is rising fast

New figures released last week by the Trussell Trust revealed that it provided almost 3 million emergency food parcels to people facing hardship in the last year. More than a million of these went to children. This is the most parcels that food banks in the charity’s national network have ever distributed in a single year and is a 37 percent increase compared to last year.

The annual statistics also show that an increasing number of people struggle to afford essentials. More than 760,000 people used a food bank in the Trussell Trust network for the first time. Brian Thomas from South Tyneside Foodbank, said, “We are experiencing an unprecedented rise in the number of people coming to the food bank, particularly employed people who are no longer able to balance a low income against rising living costs. “We’re also seeing a really high number of families needing support as people struggle to afford the essentials. Research by a group of charities has shown that the £85 weekly Universal Credit standard allowance is at least £35 less than the weekly cost of essential items for a single person.

Media gag for protester 

Prison officials have told environmental activist Marcus Decker he will lose all privileges if he talks to the media from jail, where he is serving one of the longest sentences ever passed for a non-violent protest in British  history. Four days into his jail term, officials visited Decker and told him to remain silent, according to his partner.  The warning came as lawyers for Decker consider an appeal against his sentence of two years and seven months for causing a public nuisance with his direct action protest.

  • Boris Johnson and his family have had yet another holiday—this time at his businessman cousin’s £4,100-a-night villa. The stay—their fourth vacation in ten months—was at the luxury Caribbean home of Sam Blyth. Blyth helped the ex-PM secure a loan in a saga which led to a probe into the appointment of BBC chief Richard Sharp—who resigned last week.

  • Barclays bank reported a first quarter £2.6 billion profit. That’s up from £2.2 billion for the same period last year. The haul from its consumer, cards and payments division rose 47 percent to £1.3 billion. It’s thanks to rising credit card balances as people came under intense pressure from rising prices. Its shares ended the day more than 5 percent higher.

Private equity’s climate hypocrisy 

A major private equity firm that claims to be an industry climate leader in fact almost doubled its average annual greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel investments over the past decade, according to new research. The Carlyle Group’s portfolio of fossil fuel companies emitted an estimated 277 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)—a measure that includes methane and other potent global-heating gases— from 2011 to 2021.

The research was done by the by the Private Equity Climate Risks project. It calculates the multinational’s ten-year greenhouse gas footprint to be roughly equivalent to the “carbon bomb” that Alaska’s Willow arctic drilling project is to emit over its decades-long operation. It would take an estimated 4.6 billion new trees a decade to remove the carbon from the atmosphere.

Borrowing to pay bills

Almost two-fifths of British 35 to 44 year olds have resorted to borrowing to make ends meet in the cost of living crisis,  says a study from the Resolution Foundation. It found that while nearly every demographic group had dipped into savings and cut spending owing to high inflation. A quarter of those aged under 35 had turned to parents for  help. It found that 37 percent of people aged 35 to 44 had relied on formal lending, such as credit cards, overdrafts or loans in March.

The study also found that almost a fifth of low-income families reported falling behind on at least one bill.  in the past three months. One in seven ate less or had skipped meals for seven days in the past month, double the rate of the population as a whole.

Things they say

‘Tackling traffickers and illegal migration is something that your government is doing very well. I absolutely agree with your work. There are many things that we can do together’

Fascist Italian leader Giorgia Meloni to Rishi Sunak last week

‘I’ve announced a reward for info on the criminal who killed 5 illegal immigrants on Friday’

Texas governor Greg Abbott denigrates the victims of a mass shooting

‘Make their homage in heart and voice to their undoubted King’

What the Church of England wants everyone to do to make it a ‘people’s coronation’ of Charles

‘Too busy with fashionable woke causes and politely escorting Just Stop Oil protesters’

The Sun newspaper is unhappy with the police

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