Don't Cut Us Off - Mears: Install WiFi Internet in all Asylum Housing!

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The Mears Housing Group, an outsourcing company working in housing management and home care, are the UK’s biggest refugee landlord, who have three 10-year asylum accommodation contracts from the Home Office worth a total £1.15 billion from when the contracts started.

Residents in the asylum housing Mears provide have no tenants' rights, and regularly report damp, ill-repair, rat infestations, and are unable to access repairs as Mears and Migrant Help do not have sufficient staffing or infrastructure to take calls and make repairs under the 'AIRE' contract. We have reported and campaigned on this extensively here:

People seeking Asylum in the UK, who live in these homes, are now under 'lockdown' due to Covid-19. There is not wireless internet provided in Mears Housing for residents, leaving them disconnected from the outside world, and unable to access medical information, or online resources for home schooling. They are not allowed to work, so would not be able to pay for a WiFi connection. Being locked down in poor housing is creating a high risk of mental health problems from social isolation. People seeking asylum who live in these properties in South Yorkshire have reported to us that they have asked Mears for WiFi, but this has not been granted.

One resident was due to have a tribunal appeal this week, and therefore needs to be in close contact with her lawyer. Her partner (who she does not live with)  is seriously ill in hospital with CV19. She said, "We struggle with sorting everything and when we buy data for our phones it runs out very quickly. With Wifi we can watch things on our phones and not feel so lonely and isolated. WE need to access e mails to communicate with our lawyers. I am afraid of missing important, urgent e mails.

We also need to keep up to date with everything that is going on and changes with what we are allowed to do, and not supposed to do."

Many residents of Mears housing usually spend a lot of their days out of the home, volunteering and involved in community projects. Now locked away without access to these communities, this creates a very high risk of mental health issues.

We demand Mears provide free WiFi in all of their housing urgently, so that residents can contact support workers, family in other countries, access medical information, education and entertainment.

On Tuesday 24th March, a representative of Mears Housing said that Mears are currently 'assessing comms needs' for residents. Provision of free WiFi for those without any income can only be a good thing. People who have no income, and cannot take out a mobile phone contract, cannot use mobile data, which is very costly. Many residents have previously used libraries and public WiFi which they now cannot access. We are concerned that Mears may use evidence that some have used internet elsewhere, or spent any money they do have on costly mobile internet, to avoid paying for WiFi routers in these homes. We ask them to immediately install WiFi routers, that cover the whole house, and with enough bandwidth for the number of residents in each property.