Thousands of people are demanding the government reverses its decision to cut funding that ensures vulnerable refugees can access housing and healthcare if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.
Around 23,000 people, including actors Emma Thompson and Joanna Lumley, backed the open letter in response to what the Refugee Council called a “disgraceful U-turn”. Westminster confirmed it won’t guarantee the pre-allocated Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) cash – the UK’s contribution to a pot of billions of euros set up by the EU in 2014 for member states to support the effective integration of non-EU nationals including refugees – which is currently distributed to UK charities.
Portions of the AMIF funding was issued by central government, including the Refugee Council, Refugee Action, Barnet Refugee Service, RETAS and the Refugee Women’s Association. But, despite having committed to safekeeping other streams of funding that would otherwise be coming straight from the EU, ministers have refused to do so for these AMIF funds.
Maurice Wren, Refugee Council chief executive, said: “The fact is this funding is for refugees who are in the gravest danger – those who are very likely to end up on the streets without our support, are destitute and extremely isolated. It is hard to believe that these vital services are going to be shut down.
“We urge the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, to see reason and listen to what thousands of people are saying – overturn this decision immediately so that we can continue to help refugees build their lives and start to contribute to UK society.”
The charities said the total value of the AMIF funding they receive is in the tens of millions and key to providing vital services like housing, healthcare and help into employment for around 30,000 refugees in the UK – many of whom are already “at crisis point”.
The Refugee Council said the loss of its AMIF contract worth £2.6m over two years will leave nearly 2,000 refugees at high risk of homelessness and destitution.
URGENT ACTION: Boris Johnson's Government cancelling vital support for thousands of refugees in the UK on 31 October in event of no deal Brexit. Sign @refugeecouncil letter and demand the Government keeps its promise. #BrokenPromises https://t.co/occVCjhwJK
— Refugee Council (@refugeecouncil) October 4, 2019
Mary, a refugee, was given just a month to move out of her accommodation after her refugee status was confirmed. But the council told her they couldn’t help her with housing until she was sleeping rough, despite her already suffering from PTSD.
This caused her mental and physical health to deteriorate before she was referred to the Refugee Council who made sure she found accommodation and a solicitor to fight her corner. Mary said: “My experience leads me to wonder what would have happened to someone in a similar situation to me, who did not have the opportunity to contact the Refugee Council and get support from a solicitor.
“If I had slept rough as suggested and was harmed or my belongings stolen, who would be held responsible for it? What would have happened to me had I not been in contact with the Refugee Council?”
The UK government said it would underwrite most AMIF funding and other EU cash streams after a no-deal Brexit, but excluded the funds allocated via UKRA (the UK responsible authority) in central government. The charities who benefit from this at the moment were told last month that their funding would be cut immediately upon leaving the EU.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government has guaranteed funding for organisations that successfully bid directly to the European Commission for Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.
“We are committed to effective integration. In February 2019 we published the integrated communities action plan and committed to work with civil society and others to increase integration support for all refugees in the UK. Our focus is on supporting refugees with English language, employment and entrepreneurship, and wellbeing.”