A teenager who fled to the UK from Iran where he faced persecution for being gay was housed by a private contractor in a small bedroom that he was expected to share with a former Taliban supporter. Under Talban rule in Afghanistan, homosexuality carried the death penalty.
He was among those housed in Middlesbrough, where a political row blew up last month when it was revealed that the homes where asylum seekers live could be identified by their red doors.
The Middlesbrough MP, Andy McDonald, told MPs during a debate on private firms contracted to house asylum seekers that that he had been “amazed” to learn how “different people can be put into a single bedroom quite inappropriately.”
He added: “A young man in my community who is gay and who has come to this country is having to share a bedroom with somebody who was once a member of the Taliban - an utterly ridiculous state of affairs.”
His fellow Labour MP Steven Doughty described it as a “shocking example”. He added: “As a gay MP myself, I would find it horrendous to be placed in accommodation with somebody who potentially had persecuted me or potentially would persecute me. However, that is the reality of many people’s experience - they find themselves in unsuitable accommodation.”
Mr McDonald told The Independent: “I have met the young man personally, through friends who offered him support and invited him into their home. He is very reluctant to go back to the other property, because he knows his roommate’s history.
“There have been many other instances where people who shouldn’t have to share rooms are being made to. Another man, a former Muslim, has converted to Christianity and is worried about sharing a room, because apostasy is not welcomed. Nothing has happened and we hope nothing will, but it’s that sort of thoughtlessness that characterises the way these contracts are run.”
The main contract for asylum seekers in the North East of England was awarded to the security firm G4S, who claim to have made no profit from the contract.
The immigration minister, James Brokenshire, said that the government condemned any actions that would “stigmatise” or “isolate” asylum seekers, and that an inspection is under way in Middlesbrough, which would focus on “whether the decent homes standard is being met and what steps are being taken to remedy defects that are identified.”
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