NACCOM and Praxis have drafted a joint briefing on the Illegal Migration Bill, and the high risk of homelessness and destitution that the Bill poses to people claiming asylum in the UK.
The briefing – which forms part of a larger, coordinated cross-sector briefing for Peers from civil society organisations opposed to the Illegal Migration Bill – comes ahead of the Bill’s return to the House of Lords on May 10th, when Peers will have the chance to debate it during the second reading.
Why are we opposed to the Bill?
The Illegal Migration Bill, which is currently making its passage through Parliament, represents a dangerous and far-reaching attack on refugee and migrants’ rights in the UK, human rights more broadly, and domestic and international law.
We are profoundly concerned by the proposals laid out in the Illegal Migration Bill. If passed in its current form, the Bill could see thousands of people have their claim to asylum deemed inadmissible – not eligible for consideration – over the next three years if they arrive by routes considered to be ‘irregular’ by the Government. The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, views this as a ban on asylum.
The Refugee Council estimates that at the end of three years following the provisions coming into effect, between 161,147 and 192,670 people will have had a claim for protection deemed inadmissible but will not have been removed from the UK, due to the lack of returns agreements in place with third countries.
People in this position, as well as being unable to have their claims processed, will be unable to work. Although some will be eligible for destitution-related support from the Home Office, many may face barriers to accessing this.
With the Bill denying any asylum-related route to settlement in the UK, disengagement from the asylum system will likely increase, as will the number of people who choose to disappear into the community upon arrival rather than presenting themselves to the authorities. Those who do this will be dependent on informal support networks.
Years of experience working with non-UK nationals experiencing homelessness tells us that people seeking protection in the UK must be supported to unlock their full potential within communities. Yet the Bill will leave people whose claims have been deemed inadmissible in permanent purgatory. As such, it is likely to drive the growth of an ever-larger population of people unable to put down roots in our communities, and highly vulnerable to destitution, homelessness, and exploitation, as well as worsening health and wellbeing.
Why will the Bill increase the risk of homelessness and destitution?
Clause 4 of the Bill provides that any ‘protection claims’ and/or ‘human rights claims’ made by people meeting the conditions in Clause 2 must be declared inadmissible. People whose claims are deemed inadmissible will have no right to work. As within the current system, most will also have restricted or no recourse to public funds (NRPF), and be ineligible for specified welfare benefits, homelessness assistance, and social housing, whilst also being barred from legally accessing private rented accommodation.
People whose claims are deemed inadmissible may be eligible for support and accommodation from the Home Office. However, anyone who does not fall within the eligible groups will be dependent on informal or insecure housing arrangements (e.g., sofa surfing), or support from voluntary services, if they are to avoid rough sleeping. NACCOM (the No Accommodation Network) is a UK-wide network of voluntary services supporting refugees, people seeking asylum, and other migrants facing homelessness and destitution. Last year, 45% of people who approached the network for accommodation arrived from informal or insecure accommodation arrangements. These arrangements are precarious and liable to break-down, placing people at constant risk of rough sleeping.
Voluntary services supporting migrants experiencing homelessness, such as those within the NACCOM network, will play a vital role in helping people whose claims are deemed inadmissible to avoid destitution and homelessness, both via delivering accommodation services, and assisting people to make asylum support applications. However, the voluntary sector supporting migrants experiencing homelessness is already operating at capacity and facing additional pressures due to the cost-of-living crisis. We are concerned that the Illegal Migration Bill will result in people experiencing prolonged periods of destitution and homelessness.
We are urging the Government to withdraw the Bill, in light of the significant risks of destitution and homelessness and the harm this presents to individuals and communities around the UK.