In locations of high net inward migration, the problem of ‘beds in sheds’ has been troubling local councils for years. Many immigrants, some of them illegal, are currently stuck in informal accommodation (garages, garden sheds etc.) being rented to them illegally at extortionate rates, but with none of the usual standards of living or accommodation regulations in place.
In many cases, this is a vicious circle from which there is no escape. Illegal immigrants cannot plead their case to the local authorities for fear of deportation and so the ‘landlords’ have an accentuated and dangerous level of power over their tenants.
In order to address the issue, a cross-Whitehall summit has been called for representatives from the police, local and national government and the UK Border Agency, in order to assess calls for councils to make greater use of legal powers in areas such as planning, fire safety, housing and environmental health.
The DCLG said the meetings would “find ways to close down thousands of sheds and outbuildings being rented out illegally to migrants, including some with no right to be in the UK”.
“These ‘tenants’ are being exploited by ruthless landlords who charge them extortionate rents to live in cramped conditions.
“These modern day shanty towns, often visible on websites such as Google Earth, can be plagued with rats and cockroaches – and are potential death traps with dodgy wiring and poor sanitation.”
The Government announced on Friday 11th May that £1.8m will be allocated to nine councils where there is a particular problem as the first stage in tackling the issue. It is expected that the following points will also be discussed during the summit:
- how to better measure the extent and nature of the problem, drawing on information collected by Whitehall and local authorities;
- how best to ensure councils and the police share the intelligence available and enforcement activity;
- closer working with organisations such as the Indian High Commission to help those individuals wanting to return home; and
- steps to prevent more “beds in sheds” from being created.
Critics say the issue is only going to get worse, with current net migration rates at 239,000 in 2010. Many are calling for immediate action from local councils to address the problem and the issue will only provide more ammunition for those who believe Britain’s migration policies need drastic reviewing.