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Transition to AASC/AIRE- (aka Mears and Migrant Help) Update 3

Excellent briefing from Mary at Asylum Matters – please contact her directly about issues arising from this [email protected]


The AIRE service is now live and you should be able to reach Migrant Help via:

  • The FRC (First Response Centre) phoneline 0808 8010 503. Though the phoneline is available 24/7, calls are encouraged outside peak times (10.30-15.30) though I appreciate this is when most services are open. OISC advisors are now available 08.00 to 20.00 Monday to Friday.
  • Web chat available 24 hours a day, Monday to Friday.
  • Self-service portal (though registration must be completed first via the phoneline)
  • Email (listed below)

However, I’m aware that service users and organisations are facing considerable delays in reaching Migrant Help through each of these channels.

It is specified in the AIRE contract that calls should be collected within 1 minute. Migrant Help have given assurances that they are working to resolve the current delays, with staff awaiting security clearance to increase their capacity imminently. In response to feedback, they are also looking at reintroducing the notification of a caller’s ‘place in the queue’ on the phoneline, but I’m told this could take some time.

Latest email addresses

If you’ve reported an urgent issue to Migrant Help but haven’t received a response, you can escalate the issue to a manager. Migrant Help listed the following emails in their latest newsletter and update:

The [email protected] email replaces the old [email protected] email address. It’s worth noting that sending the same issue to multiple inboxes or the same inbox multiple times will not speed up the response. Migrant Help advises always using a reference number and contact number when emailing.

What to do if you can’t reach Migrant Help

 Until the current issues are resolved, there is unfortunately no magic solution to reaching Migrant Help. For any urgent issues such as safeguarding or category 1 or 2 accommodation issues (issues that contractually need to be resolved within 4 or 24 hours, see p.82 and p.96 of SORs) I’ve been given permission to share the following contacts:

Submitting Complaints

I would encourage anyone who is struggling to reach Migrant Help to submit a complaint, detailing the length of time waited for a call collection/response, so that there is a record of your attempts to contact them. Please do continue to email me if you are experiencing long delays and difficulties in accessing MH services, and in particular we are keen to keep a log of the impacts of these delays on service users.

Any complaints about Migrant Help, HO, Mears or Sodexo, can be sent to [email protected] where they will be raised as complaints.

Complaints about Migrant Help themselves can also be submitted via the online form on their website or via email to [email protected]

You might find it helpful to use the tracking tool attached below (courtesy of the brilliant St Augustine’s) to keep a record of any issues reported and the length of time (a) for a call to be collected (b) to receive a response to an issue report (c) for an issue to be resolved.

Though some teething issues were to be expected during the transition to the new contracts, and it is noted that the providers are working hard to increase their capacity to deliver, it is entirely unacceptable that service users should be left without this crucial support service. Keeping a record of what’s going on will help us if necessary to hold the providers and the Home Office to account in future.

Questions for Migrant Help about the AIRE contract

Migration Yorkshire have offered to act as a conduit for questions to Migrant Help & Reed in Partnership about the management and operation of the AIRE contract. Please submit questions to [email protected]. Migrant Help will try to respond within 5 days or provide an alternative time frame. This email is not for individual casework questions but it is a useful route to getting questions answered and issues highlighted.


Mears have recently circulated the attached FAQ document which includes updates about the transition to AASC in the NEYH region, with much of it specific to the North East. To summarise some key points relevant to Y&H:

  • Mears have secured a short-term self-delivery subcontractor agreement with Jomast in the North East, meaning that the 3800 service users in their properties are no longer under threat of imminent homelessness. Questions remain however over the longevity of this agreement, the conditions in Jomast housing and the alternative arrangements should Mear be unable to ensure these properties meet contractual standards.
  • Moving into ‘Business as Usual’ Mears will be working to develop a VCS comms strategy with the collaboration of SMPs and multi-agency forums.
  • Mears reiterated their commitment to pursue a policy of no room sharing and to reduce the current rate of room sharing in the region.
  • All letters and induction material issued by Mears will be available in the top 10 languages. On visits to accommodation Housing Managers have access to a telephone translation service.

In response to campaigners who are fighting lock-change evictions in asylum accommodation in Glasgow, Mears have made a commitment to take a different approach, with a spokesperson issuing the following statement:

“We are agreeing an approach for ‘move on’ at end of the asylum application process that best supports service users. We have reassured them that in cases where an individual is refused asylum we will follow the legal process and Home Office requirements, respecting all rights of review and appeal. We would always hope to avoid a court order, as we believe there is a better way of supporting the service user. We will make sure that Service Users have access to advice and support, from the Home Office’s AIRE contract provider Migrant Help, to reach the best outcome and we will notify the relevant local authority to enable the move on process.”

Going forward, we’ll be asking Mears for similar reassurance in the NEYH region and seeking clarity on the above approach.

Issues arising

We’re hearing of significant numbers of newly dispersed asylum applicants not receiving their ASPEN cards promptly, with severe impacts on these service users and the organisations supporting them. Though Mears are able to issue a £20 emergency payment in this situation, this is often not enough to cover living costs, meaning that VCS organisations are relied on to support these service users financially. Please do let me know if you are coming across this issue and, if you are supporting people in this situation, please try to keep and share a record of how much you are spending.

We’re also hearing about issues with the transport of service users in receipt of Section 4 to their new accommodation. We’ll be raising these issues, along with any others that we hear of, with the HO, Migration Yorkshire and at any relevant forums.


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