Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ban on Forced Sharing for Refugees 'Unlawful'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ban on Forced Sharing for Refugees 'Unlawful'

Article excerpt

Byline: IAN JOHNSON Reporter @Ian_JohnsonGaz

AFIRM is fighting Newcastle City Council's decision to ensure asylum seekers are not forced to room-share with strangers.

The council outlawed forced sharing last March after it emerged refugees were rooming with people who didn't even speak the same language.

The authority says housing firm Jomast flouted that by continuing to overcrowd homes.

However, the G4S subcontractor argued the move is "unlawful" with the firm's owner Stuart Monk telling a tribunal he "absolutely didn't agree" with it.

And at a hearing on Friday, Mr Monk told The Journal he would have no issue sharing a room. "Plenty of people have to share accommodation," he said.

"I shared a room with my brother for 30 years."

Council staff told the tribunal it acted after receiving multiple complaints about overcrowding. It served homes with notices, including some that weren't overcrowded but had excess multiple beds.

However, the housing firm feels the move was in breach of the Government's Housing Act.

Jomast's barrister, Dominic Bayne, argued the council's notices contained a trio of "defects" - and that it didn't have the jurisdiction to effectively override the Home Office by serving the notice.

"These overcrowding notices should not have been sent," he said.

"(The council) has no power - that's the local authority going on a frolic of its own."

Jomast took over the housing of asylum seekers from the city council, the tribunal heard.

It sub-contracts the role from G4S, which previously said it doesn't allow forced sharing at any of the properties it maintains.

The Home Affairs Committee previously stated it wanted to see the practice phased out, while authorities in Yorkshire had already successfully dropped forced sharing.

And Vilma Vodanovich, representing the council, said the only sharing it would allow was with couples or family members.

Earlier, Mr Monk opened up about the firm's operations, claiming it can be swamped with more than 100 requests to find housing for refugees each week. …

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