By Claire Gordon • 24 October 2021 • 18:25
There have been ninety-five deaths in government asylum accommodation since April 2016, almost twice as many as recently stated by the government. This has raised suspicions that there has been a deliberate downplay of the figures by the Home Office. The data revealed by information request shows there has been a sharp increase in the number of asylum accommodation deaths in the last two years.
In 2020, there were nine times as many deaths in asylum support provisions, such as hotels, than in the previous year. There were four deaths in 2019 and 36 in 2020. There have also been another 33 deaths in the first eight months of 2021 according to freedom of information (FoI) requests by the investigative journalism organisation Liberty Investigates.
The figures have been called ‘devastating’ by Dr Sabir Zazai, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council. A call for an urgent inquiry has been made to try to establish why so many people are dying under the state’s care.
Just three months ago the Home Office stated that there had been 51 asylum accommodation deaths after other FoI requests, this time made by the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC). The higher numbers now released are shocking experts and raised questions about the big discrepancy.
When asked for an explanation for the differing numbers, the Home Office pointed to an extra phrase included in one of the requests by the SRC – whilst staying in asylum support accommodation”. A Home Office spokesperson appeared to suggest it took this clause to mean deaths only taking place inside asylum accommodation, not if they were in hospital, for instance.
Stuart McDonald, SNP home affairs spokesperson, called the figures “appalling”. He demanded reassurance that the discrepancy was not a deliberate attempt to mislead the public about the number of deaths. The Home Office, he added, should promise to publish annual data on deaths in asylum accommodation “openly and transparently”.
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