Social Justice

Homeless refugees in Leeds skyrocket due to Home Office evictions: 'It's a humanitarian emergency'

The city has seen an eightfold increase in the number of asylum seekers evicted into homelessness

Leeds, homeless

Refugee homelessness has shot up across the country as the Home Office tries to clear the asylum backlog. Image: Philip Silverman/Shutterstock

The number of refugees homeless in Leeds after being evicted from Home Office accommodation has skyrocketed in the wake of the government’s new asylum policies.

A total of 70 households became homeless from August to October, The Big Issue has found, up from eight in the same period in 2022 – an eightfold increase.

Cities across the country are struggling to cope as attempts to clear the legacy asylum backlog, coupled with a temporary accommodation shortage and an effective reduction in the time afforded to newly-recognised refugees to find a place to live, create a widespread refugee homelessness crisis.

Nationally, the number evicted into homelessness has tripled since changes made in August. In the months to August, Leeds had seen 7.7 households becoming homeless every month after leaving Home Office housing. Since August, it has been an average of 23.3.

“It is a terrible mess that is wholly avoidable and wholly the fault of this terrible government who have dumped people in Leeds in the full knowledge that this would happen,”Jon Beech, director of Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network, told The Big Issue.

Beech said the charity was finding that refugees often did not have access to clothes to stay warm: “It’s a humanitarian emergency in Leeds.”

Evictions have been paused during extreme cold weather and over Christmas, but there are calls for an immediate pause, including from London mayor Sadiq Khan.

“My worry is the government is ending the Home Office accommodation during winter. The problem with that is, unless you’ve got accommodation to go to, you’re going to be on the streets,” Khan told The Big Issue.

Leeds council said it had not seen the rise in homelessness translate into a rise in rough sleeping.

“The council’s homelessness service will support any former asylum seekers experiencing homelessness that need help to resolve their housing situation by offering a homelessness assessment and providing extensive advice and assistance to secure accommodation,” a spokesperson told The Big Issue.

“The service has a dedicated team to support former asylum seekers and strong partnership working is in place with asylum accommodation providers and partners working to support this community. The council has not seen an increase in rough sleeping in Leeds as a result of former asylum seekers becoming homeless.”

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