Social Justice

Home Office's screeching halt on new refugee eviction policy, explained

The government is stopping asylum evictions over Christmas and during freezing temperatures, with evictions fuelling homelessness among refugees

home office, glasgow

Glasgow has seen protests calling for an end to asylum evictions. Image: Living Rent

A pause in asylum evictions over Christmas and during extreme cold weather is an admission Home Office policies are causing homelessness, charities say.

It comes after The Big Issue revealed evictions of newly recognised refugees from Home Office accommodation will be halted from 23 December to 2 January, with an extra three-day grace period when the severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) is active.

Councils had been piling on pressure for the Home Office to change course, as a growing number of those made to leave asylum accommodation found themselves homeless.

“That the government has paused the seven-day-evictions due to the severe weather emergency protocol is telling and far from a cause for celebration,” Mary Atkinson, campaigns and networks manager at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, told The Big Issue. “Clearly, the Home Office recognises that they are forcing vulnerable people onto the streets.”

Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis, said on X the news was welcome but a “tacit admission from the Home Office that evictions from asylum accommodation are causing rough sleeping”.

As the Home Office races to clear the legacy asylum backlog, it is granting vast numbers of asylum decisions. Those given a decision must leave their asylum accommodation, and are being given a minimum of seven days to find somewhere to live once they receive essential paperwork.

Changes in the way this ‘move-on’ period is handled, made in August, have seen the number of those evicted into homelessness triple year-on-year, The Big Issue found in an investigation.

Despite the Christmas respite, leaders have warned that refugees must be given more time to find housing.

“While this short period of respite is welcome, we urgently need the Home Office to move to a fairer & more sustainable system, with 56 days’ notice given before evictions so that people aren’t set up to fail,” Helen Dennis, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for new homes and sustainable development, told The Big Issue.

The Home Office’s top senior servants confirmed last week that the 28-day period will not be extended as things stand.

Citing The Big Issue’s investigation during a session of the Home Affairs committee, Tory MP Simon Fell said the government was “layering challenges” on people by beginning the 28-days grace period when a decision is given, rather than when paperwork is received.

“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?”

Interim second permanent secretary Simon Ridley, the second most senior Home Office civil servant, said the government was trying to “improve this point of transition”, but added there were no plans to review the length given to newly-recognised refugees.

Migrant Help, a charity offering support to newly-recognised refugees through a Home Office contract, said the pause was welcome news.

“We welcome the Home Office’s decision to pause these evictions. Displaced people who have often experienced trauma before seeking asylum in the UK deserve to feel safe and should be able to find accommodation in a timely manner,” a spokesperson told The Big Issue.

“People seeking asylum and refugees can get advice about accommodation and other issues relating to their asylum decision from our online webchat service at Migrant Help Web Chat (timeforstorm.com) or by phoning our free asylum helpline on 0808 8010 503.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We work with local authorities to manage the impact of asylum decisions.

“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.

“We encourage individuals to make their onward plans as soon as possible after receiving their decision on their asylum claim, whether that is leaving the UK following a refusal, or taking steps to integrate in the UK following a grant.”

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
More than two thirds of teachers worry children will go hungry this summer: 'Beyond heart-breaking'
child pulling hair of another child who is eating
Child poverty

More than two thirds of teachers worry children will go hungry this summer: 'Beyond heart-breaking'

1.6 million children at risk of 'losing their life chances' because of 'cruel' two-child benefit cap
three children
Child poverty

1.6 million children at risk of 'losing their life chances' because of 'cruel' two-child benefit cap

Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?
Free school meals/ Easter holidays
Free school meals

Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?

DWP's 'automation' of universal credit discriminates against single mums, researchers say
benefits/ money
Universal credit

DWP's 'automation' of universal credit discriminates against single mums, researchers say

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know

The Big Issue

Sign up to get your FREE Doctor Who Archive Special

Celebrate the 14th series with your FREE edition of the Dr Who Special Archives