A new report carried out by a homeless charity claims that government policies are leaving newly recognised refugees homeless within days of them being granted asylum.
The research, carried out by the No Accommodation Network (NACCOM), suggests more than one in four homeless people using night shelters are refugees, with some going to shelters as early as one week after being evicted from asylum accommodation.
According to The Independent, the report also finds that 28 per cent of guests in a sample of night shelters had been granted refugee status. Although some of the shelters catered only for immigrants, the figure shows a large number of refugees are being affected.
The findings identify a direct link between the Home Office policy of giving newly recognised refugees only 28 days to vacate asylum accommodation – known as the “move-on” period – and the high prevalence of homelessness among refugees in the UK.
At one shelter in London, half of the refugees surveyed were known to have left their asylum accommodation within the previous six months.
The proportion of homeless people who are refugees is considerably higher than the overall proportion of refugees in Britain, with the number of people seeking asylum and recognised as refugees comprising less than 0.25 per cent of the total UK population, according to date from UN refugee body UNHCR.
There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
The NACCOM report recommends that the move-on period is extended to 56 days, giving newly recognised refugees longer to access housing support and find accommodation before they are evicted, which it says would bring Home Office policy in line with wider legislative changes, stating the department’s policies are “drastically out of sync” with efforts by other areas of government in preventing homelessness, reducing rough sleeping and supporting the integration of refugees.
Under the Homelessness Reduction Act, a new law brought in last month, the period of time that someone can be deemed “threatened with homelessness” is extended and allows local councils more time to reduce risks by developing personal support plans and providing free advice.
The research highlights how refugees cannot benefit in the same way as other applicants to these changes because they only have 28 days before eviction, and they have no way of knowing when their decision will come.
Hazel Williams, NACCOM’s national director, said: “The UK government’s insistence that refugees need just one month to access benefits and housing, sometimes after years of waiting for a decision without being able to work or access mainstream support, is unrealistic and outdated.
“This report shows the shocking reality that people who come here in search of safety and are indeed granted that protection from the UK government are then forced into destitution. The work of our members to prevent this from happening is commendable but should not be necessary.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection.
“If an asylum seeker is granted refugee status or humanitarian protection they have immediate and unrestricted access to the labour market and many mainstream benefits. Failed asylum seekers are expected to return to their home country, but if there is a genuine obstacle preventing them from returning they can apply for continuing support from the Home Office.”