Social Justice

Tory MP challenges Home Office over thousands of refugees facing homelessness by Christmas

A senior Home Office official confirmed the department is refusing to change a policy which is pushing refugees onto the streets

The 28-day move on period is pushing refugees to homelessness, said Tory MP Simon Fell. Image: Parliament TV

The Home Office is refusing to change a policy which is driving refugees into homelessness, one of the department’s chiefs has confirmed.

Tory MP Simon Fell pressed mandarin Simon Ridley about a Big Issue investigation, which revealed 1,500 refugees became homeless in three months after being evicted from asylum accommodation.

As the refugee homelessness crisis accelerates, councils across England have asked for urgent financial support, warning that thousands of refugees could be sleeping rough over Christmas without change.

“The Big Issue did a freedom of information request recently, and they found that due to the refugee move-on period, the number of refugees becoming homeless has tripled from August to October,” Fell, the MP for Barrow and Furness, said.

“The move-on period, which is set currently at 28 days, is driving homelessness among the refugee population. What are your plans to address that?”

Ridley, who as interim second permanent secretary is the second most senior official in the Home Office, simply explained existing policy – which is failing to prevent a rise in homelessness.

He detailed how the Home Office is “increasing the data” shared with local authorities, working closely with other government departments, and charity Migrant Help.

The Big Issue has been investigating the impact and extent of the refugee homelessness crisis. Read more of our reporting here:

Fell’s question came as Home Office senior officials were being grilled by MPs on the Home Affairs Committee.

The session also included a refusal to reveal if more than £140m has been sent to Rwanda, and an admission that the government may have lost track of 17,000 asylum seekers whose claims have been withdrawn.

“We are layering challenges on people” by starting the 28-day period when a decision is given, rather than when they receive paperwork which allows them to work and claim benefits, said Fell. 

Following a change in practice in August, delays mean that in reality newly-recognised refugees often find themselves with just a week to find somewhere to live before they are made homeless.

“It makes it harder for them to find accommodation, it makes it harder for them to find work,” said Fell.

“This is a barrier we’re putting in their way which could be changed. Why are we not looking at changing it?”

In response, Ridley said the government is increasing the information available in hotels, trying to “improve this point of transition”, but was not planning to review the policy.

“We’re doing some things to try and improve this point of transition in terms of making sure people get that information as soon as the decision is made. We’re also increasing the amount of information we have available in hotels for people who are not yet at the end of the process and move some of that more upstream,” said Ridley.

“Some of our partners such as Migrant Help are seeking to support those people we’ve got in our accommodation as soon as possible,” Ridley added, before confirming there are no plans to review the 28-day policy.

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A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring asylum claims are considered without unnecessary delays.

“Once someone is informed that their asylum claim has been granted, they get at least 28 days notice to move on from their asylum accommodation. 

“Support is offered to newly recognised refugees by Migrant Help and their partners, which includes advice on how to access the universal credit, the labour market and where to get assistance with housing. 

“We work with local authorities to help communities manage the impact of asylum decisions.”

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