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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 08:12 GMT
Many asylum homes 'unfit for habitation'
asylum seekers
Asylum seekers often face poor accommodation
Many asylum seekers are being housed in squalid and overcrowded accommodation that is often unfit for human habitation, according to a new report.

The study by homeless charity Shelter seeks to counter the perception that refugees are given the best housing.

The organisation inspected 154 properties used by asylum seekers and found that one-in-five were unfit for human habitation.

Many were infested with cockroaches, fleas or bedbugs, and four out of five of the shared houses had major fire risks.

Shelter says the system is allowing hundreds of landlords to cash in on some of the poorest and most vulnerable people.

Minimum standards

The charity believes private landlords should be made to adhere to minimum standards so that everyone can live in safe accommodation.

But the government says Shelter's report was carried out before it started its own National Asylum Support Service, which includes inspection teams who carry out regular checks on accommodation.

The number of people claiming asylum in Britain hit an all-time high of more than 76,000 last year.

And the real total could be as high as 100,000 individuals, as many asylum applicants arrive with their families.

Almost 10,200 people were granted asylum as refugees in last year, nearly 2,400 more than in 1999.

But of the 76,850 refused asylum, more than 49,000 have appealed and thousands of cases are still to be determined.

The main countries of origin were Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Housing and feeding such numbers has long been putting a strain on local authorities, particularly those in London and the south east where most asylum seekers have traditionally chosen to settle.

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