Shorter notice periods for people to leave asylum support accommodation after being granted refugee status are driving some into “impoverishment and homelessness”, charities have warned.
A number of major organizations have insisted that all refugees should be given at least 28 days before being asked to leave their accommodation, to give them the chance to find alternative accommodation and try to find work.
In a letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Housing Secretary Michael Gove, the Refugee Council claimed that many refugees have, in recent months, found themselves in a situation where they have just seven days' notice to leave their accommodation.
The letter, signed by various other human rights organizations as well as homelessness charities Shelter and Crisis, said: “This is causing serious hardship for refugees, as well as putting unnecessary pressure on local authorities who already face challenges in finding accommodation for other groups.
“We find that local authorities have not been informed of the new arrangements, which means they are not ready to respond quickly.”
The Refugee Council said the so-called 28-day “movement” period had previously started once a person received a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
However, the council said recent changes meant the 28-day period starts when someone receives a grant letter telling them their protection claim has been accepted, rather than when they receive their BRP.
Due to delays between people receiving their grant letter and the delivery of a BRP, many can end up “as early as 28 days before they even begin to engage in the processes that are vital to avoiding homelessness and destitution”. said the Refugee Council.
They said the changes were “already driving people who have recently been granted refugee status into destitution and homelessness, rather than receiving the support and protection they are entitled to”.
Among their requests in the letter, the charities called on people to receive the Refugee Grant Letter, BRP, a letter containing the end date of their asylum support and notice to vacate their accommodation on the same day, adding that the 28 – day notice period “should never start before someone receives their BRP”.
They also called for the commuting period to be extended to at least 56 days “in line with the Homelessness Reduction and Universal Credit Claims Act”.
The government said that when someone is notified that their asylum claim has been approved, they are told that the prescribed period is 28 days and will receive a written “notice to leave” support letter at least seven days before their accommodation and support payments are due to expire.
The Home Office added that support is being offered to newly recognized refugees during the 28-day period, including advice on accessing the labor market, applying for universal credit and signaling local authorities for help with housing.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The pressure on the asylum system has continued to increase, with hotel accommodation costing an unacceptably high £6 million a day.
“We encourage people to make their next plans as soon as possible after making their decision, whether that is to leave the UK after a refusal or to take steps to integrate into the UK after a grant.
“We are also modernizing the asylum system, increasing productivity by simplifying and digitizing processes, and hiring record numbers of asylum decision-makers, with 40% more in place than at the start of December 2022.”
Refugee Council CEO Enver Solomon said: “The granting of refugee status should be a moment of enormous relief for the men, women and children who have waited anxiously for months and years to hear whether they will they are allowed to stay in the UK.
“Instead, by giving them too little time to start over, they are more likely to face destitution, homelessness and fall into crisis.”
Refugee charity Care4Calais expressed similar concerns.
Chief executive Steve Smith said: “Our volunteers see refugees evicted from their accommodation before the Home Office issues their residence cards. Denied the right to work for the duration of their asylum application and forced to live on £9 a week, young refugees have no time to find work or claim universal credit in order to secure new housing. When we approach councils and other NGOs for help, they are already overwhelmed by the sudden increase in need.
“Being granted refugee status should be a happy moment. Instead, hundreds, if not thousands, of refugees face homelessness and destitution. Refugees tell us they are forced to buy tents and sleep rough on the streets. Is this really how the UK should treat survivors of war, torture and modern slavery?'