In September we launched our #StopAsylumEvictions campaign, calling on the Home Office to halt their plans to evict thousands of people into homelessness during the Covid-19 pandemic. Below, we update you on the campaign – where are we now, and what still needs to be done.
From March until September of this year, evictions were paused from Government-funded asylum accommodation for people who have sought asylum but have received a negative decision from the Home Office on their claim. This was a welcome decision, preventing homelessness in the early stages of an unprecedented public health emergency. However, in September the Home Office reversed that decision and began evicting people into homelessness, before a High Court order in November, which came the same week that England re-entered a second national lockdown, re-instated the pause.
Renae Mann, NACCOM’s National Director, writes;
The decision to restart evictions from asylum accommodation in September created untold stress and fear for people at the sharpest end of the hostile environment. As the Home Office has refused to suspend No Recourse to Public Funds conditions during the pandemic and funding for Local Authorities to accommodate people who are not usually eligible has remained extremely limited, street homelessness is a very real prospect. We know what this means in normal times, but in a pandemic in the middle of winter, the stakes could not be higher. The decision to restart evictions sits squarely outside everything else the government is doing to try and keep everyone safe from Covid-19.
It is profoundly unreasonable to think that the voluntary sector and Local Authorities could meet people’s needs and fix the problems that the Home Office has created with their business-as-usual approach to evictions. The charities in our network are already severely stretched due to the pressures of responding to Covid-19, with most night shelters having to close completely. There was never enough capacity to meet the need before the pandemic – now the safety net is hanging by a thread.
Whilst we welcome this latest pause in evictions, the Home Office must urgently reflect on their damaging and reckless approach and ensure that no-one faces eviction into homelessness during a resurging pandemic.
Since the launch of the #StopAsylumEvictions campaign, many members, partners organisations, individuals, councils, faith leaders and parliamentarians have shown their solidarity and support for people at risk of homelessness. Some highlights include:
- The joint letter sent in October to the Prime Minister has resulted in dialogue with both the Home Office and the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), with responses received from Chris Philp and Kelly Tolhurst.
- The letter sent from faith leaders to the Home Office also resulted in a response.
- Parliamentary scrutiny on cessations and consultation with relevant bodies has continued at a pace, with representations from parliamentarians such as Stuart McDonald, Rebecca Long Bailey, Lord Boateng, Olivia Blake, Neil Coyle and Afzal Khan.
- Local Authorities including Glasgow City Council and Leeds City Council spoke out against the decision to restart evictions.
We commend all these actions, and the wider support people have shown for the campaign, particularly through our Day of Action against asylum evictions, that collectively have helped hold the Home Office to account.
It is now more vital than ever that this pressure is maintained, to ensure the risks faced by people being evicted into destitution are communicated in no uncertain terms to the Home Office so that no one faces destitution and homelessness in the pandemic.
What needs to happen now
As England exits lockdown on the 2nd December, the Home Office must:
- Retain the pause on evictions for people who have been refused asylum whilst COVID-19 remains a threat. People in asylum accommodation must be provided with adequate advice and support to help them progress their legal case and make informed choices for their future. No-one should have their financial support or accommodation withdrawn until they have been able to access alternative provision;
- Suspend No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) and work with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and relevant housing departments for constituent nations of the UK to provide adequate funding and clear guidance for local authorities, so they are able to fully support everyone at risk of homelessness in their communities.
Resources and what you can do to help
Alongside colleagues at Asylum Matters we have produced updated resources to share with Local Authorities and MPs to convey your concerns and call for lasting policy change.
As ever please let NACCOM know if you have sent these letters (even if you don’t receive a response!) and / or if you need any further assistance with these actions.
Joint policy briefing
➡️ Read our joint policy paper, Everyone Out? Preventing migrant homelessness during Covid-19 and beyond for more information about what needs to be done to protect everyone from homelessness and COVID-19. (Please note that in order to access the hyperlinks you will need to download the document).DOWNLOAD IT HERE
Contact decision makers
➡️ A template letter to MPs for NACCOM members and groups engaged in frontline destitution services prepared by our colleagues at NACCOM;
➡️ A template letter to MPs for groups who aren’t engaged in frontline service provision;
➡️ A template letter to local authorities that you can use asking your local council to speak up to oppose these plans.
➡️ We’ve produced a briefing for members and others in the sector on the current status of asylum evictions and support for people at risk of street homelessness who have either been granted or refused asylum during the Covid-19 pandemic.DOWNLOAD IT HERE
➡️ We’ve produced a briefing for members on support for people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) experiencing homelessness.DOWNLOAD IT HERE