Social Justice

Home Office policy has led to a surge in refugee homelessness, academics say

In November, The Big Issue revealed the rush to clear the asylum backlog had tripled homelessness among newly-evicted refugees

Cardiff, homeless

Cardiff has seen the average number of homeless refugees rocket since August. Image: jax10289/Shutterstock

A new report from the Centre for Homelessness Impact has revealed there was a 223% surge people leaving asylum being made street homeless between June and September 2023.

It confirms what The Big Issue has been saying for months: that changes to Home Office policy have seen refugee homelessness skyrocket.

Written by academics at the University of Huddersfield, the report tallies with an in-depth Big Issue investigation launched in November. We found that a reduction in the time given to refugees to “move on” from asylum accommodation after their claim had been processed had resulted in homelessness tripling among those evicted.

University of Huddersfield professor Philip Brown, lead researcher on the project, said: “Those people who arrive in the UK to seek sanctuary have, over the last few decades, been increasingly finding themselves accommodated in precarious situations, often enduring homelessness.

“This is particularly common for those receiving refugee status after a decision on their claim for asylum. These are challenges shared by many people in the UK.

“A lack of social housing, low-pay work and a poorly resourced support system maintain common struggles. The lack of familiarity with UK systems, difficulty getting into employment and an often fledging grasp of English means that, for refugees, they find things even harder.

“We hope that our analysis helps to see where things can be done to help refugees live their lives in peace. Many of these things will help everyone who is struggling to have somewhere safe to call home.”  

The Centre for Homelessness Impact report found that these short “move-on” periods after asylum application decisions, welfare reforms, the right-to-rent policy, and family reunifications are significantly contributing to housing instability for refugees.

It also exposed issues with country-specific schemes: Afghan refugees are subject to prolonged stays in temporary ‘bridging accommodation’, while those in the Homes for Ukraine schemes face a higher risk of homelessness after leaving their host families.

Behind the statistics are countless human stories – people granted protection by the UK, only to immediately find themselves in the jaws of a new crisis. One refugee made homeless, Adam, told The Big Issue in an interview last November: “Mentally and physically I am really tired.

“I’m asking myself, why am I here? Would it have been better to stay in Yemen and die there? And save trouble for myself and others? I don’t know.”

The effective reduction to the move-on period was put in place on 1 August, making asylum seekers street homeless with often just one week’s notice. However, in a change revealed by The Big Issue, it was seemingly reversed in September – without councils or refugee organisations being told.

Ligia Teixeira, chief executive of the Centre for Homelessness Impact, said: “To truly address this crisis, we must adopt a strategic approach to national and local refugee settlement.

“This research allows us to better understand the lives of refugees in the UK and highlights the deep personal struggles that people are facing.“

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Millions of families on universal credit worse off by £1,400 a year, experts say: 'It needs to change'
universal credit
Universal credit

Millions of families on universal credit worse off by £1,400 a year, experts say: 'It needs to change'

Amy's Place: How a 'beautiful' housing project giving hope became Amy Winehouse's real legacy
Housing

Amy's Place: How a 'beautiful' housing project giving hope became Amy Winehouse's real legacy

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

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

My cousin was killed in front of his six-year-old son. I need to get my family out of Gaza
Gaza/ Ahmed
Israel-Gaza war

My cousin was killed in front of his six-year-old son. I need to get my family out of Gaza

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