More than 50 people have died in Home Office asylum seeker accommodation in the last five years, with the number increasing steeply over the past 18 months, the Guardian has learned.
Three babies are recorded to have died, as well as three people who died as a result of Covid and four dying by suicide. Some of the deaths were due to health conditions such as heart problems, cancer or stroke.
The 51 deaths, recorded in Home Office data and provided through a freedom of information request, date back to April 2016 with the most recent documented in June 2021. However, the causes of 31 of the 51 deaths remain unconfirmed.
The information, provided in two responses to the Scottish Refugee Council and passed to the Guardian, marks some of the deaths as non-suspicious but offers no explanation for others. The Home Office says this is because a note explaining the cause of death was not recorded on their incident database.
There has been a sharp increase in deaths in the last 18 months. The Home Office does not provide a year-on-year breakdown of the deaths in the FoI response, but does state that between February and June 2021 there were seven deaths. A separate FoI request by the Guardian revealed that there were 29 deaths in 2020. This suggests there were 15 deaths between 2016 and 2019.
The names of many who died are not publicly known, but some which have come to light include Mohamed Camera, 27, from Ivory Coast who was found dead in his north London hotel room on 9 November 2020. Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah Alhabib, 41, from Yemen, was found dead in his Manchester hotel room on 6 August last year.
Charities have called for more transparency and accountability about these deaths.
Sonya Sceats, chief executive of Freedom from Torture, said: “Enforced poverty, unacceptable housing conditions and the constant threat of return to more abuse are pushing already traumatised people to the limit. The high number of deaths of people under the care of this government must be investigated openly and thoroughly. The way we treat and house people who need our help is emblematic of who we are as a country.
“Our message to Priti Patel and this government is clear: Stop playing politics with lives and deliver the compassionate asylum and immigration system you promised after the Windrush scandal. Those who have died, and their loved ones, are owed that at the very least.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are always saddened to hear of the death of any individual in asylum accommodation. This can be for a number of reasons, including natural causes or as the result of a terminal illness. The health and wellbeing of asylum seekers has and always will be our priority.
“We will continue to work closely with a range of organisations to provide support to those that need it and where necessary we will always cooperate fully in any investigation into the cause of an individual death.”