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The Impact of Accommodation Centres on the Health of People Seeking Asylum

Jennifer Blair

Clause 11(6) of the Nationality and Borders Bill would bring into force increased powers to house people seeking asylum “in an accommodation centre”. This would normalise the use of institutional accommodation that segregates people seeking asylum from communities.

Our work over many years has shown us that accommodation embedded within the community is key to the recovery, integration and health outcomes for refugees and survivors – this briefing sets out the impact of institutional accommodation on the health and welfare of those seeking asylum. The factors of this type of accommodation include:

Reduced access to advice and services 

  • Lack of full access to healthcare, including normal GP registration, psychological therapy, immunisations and adequate dental care.
  • Lack of access to adequate professional support, advice and assistance.
  • Feeling unsafe. 
  • Reduced or no access to professional and specialist services.
  • Lack of information, transparency and fair process.
  • No reliable legal advice locally and legal aid deserts.


  • Segregation and isolation from communities, friends and family.
  • Perceptions of being unwelcome.
  • Isolated locations and destitution combining to remove the ability to worship and practice religion and access education.
  • Lack of freedom to move within and without, including curfews and locked gates.
  • No/reduced access to cooking facilities, limited food choice and low-quality food.

Unsanitary and unsafe conditions

  • Close proximity in an enclosed setting increases risk of communicable disease and infection.
  • Shared facilities, including shared sleeping areas.
  • Lack of privacy.
  • Environmental reminders of sites of past torture, modern slavery and ill-treatment.
  • Length of stay, uncertainty over length of stay and extreme delays in asylum decision-making
  • Poverty and ongoing inability to meet essential living needs.

Providing the right support that people need while waiting for a decision on their application should be a core part of a compassionate and fair asylum system. However, the government’s plans to introduce accommodation centres fail to recognise the harm done by segregated, institutional accommodation settings and the risks they cause given the presumption of vulnerability that applies to refugee populations.