Makeshift refugee camps likely to be commonplace this winter as Home Office speeds up evictions, charities warn

Right to remain refugees now have only seven days to find accommodation.

Charities have warned that there could be a refugee homelessness crisis in England this winter, as people being granted the right to remain now have only seven days to find accommodation.  

In July, the number of days newly recognised refugees and survivors of trafficking had to find somewhere to live after their claim was approved before being evicted from Home Office accommodation was reduced from 28 days to just seven.

Even when the time from receiving a ‘notice to quit’ was 28 days, charities were urging the Home Office to extend the period to 56 days, arguing that the timescale didn’t provide refugees with enough time to find new accommodation, get a job, or access benefits.

Since the policy has been cut to just seven days, refugee and homelessness charities and local authorities, have said there has been a sharp increase in the number of refugees asking for help for homelessness.

Councils have described the majority of individuals seeking assistance as single men who are not deemed a ‘priority need,’ meaning local authorities do not have a duty to provide any assistance or advice.

As such, homelessness refugee ‘camps’ could appear across the country throughout the winter, charities warn.

Seána Roberts, manager of the Merseyside Refugee Support Network in Liverpool, said she has never “seen anything like it in her 25 years in the sector.”

 “Normally we might have seen one or two people present themselves as street homeless in a year. Now we’ve got 50 people in the space of six weeks,” she said.

Roberts explained how refugees refuse tents and choose to take sleeping bags as they don’t want to be visible or feel vulnerable in parks.

The charity is currently reaching out to landlords to try and set up temporary sofa-surfing arrangements.

“We’re just trying every which way to avoid what I think is going to be the inevitable, which is camps made up of tents and sleeping bags,” Roberts said.

In late September, it was reported that two male asylum seekers from Syria and Sudan were camping outside council offices of West Berkshire, in Newbury. The men told the BBC that they had been given seven days to find a job and somewhere to live, and had been left with no allowances.

Ali Ibrahim, who had fled war in Darfur, Sudan, was granted permission to stay in Britain but was told he had to leave the hotel where he had been staying, along with a number of other asylum seekers. His £7 weekly allowance had also been withdrawn. Ibrahim said all he wanted was ‘a place to stay.’

Carly Whyborn, executive director of Refugees at Home, said that since the changes were implemented, the charity has seen a five-fold increase in the number of referrals from refugees desperate for somewhere to live, and the situation is getting worse.

“We are urgently trying to reach out to new hosts, particularly in major cities, who may be able to offer a temporary place to stay,” she added.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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