As of the 15th September, the Home Office has resumed evictions from asylum accommodation for people with a negative decision in England, with plans to resume in Scotland and Wales in the future.
We are extremely concerned about this decision, recognising its immediate and lasting impact on people currently in asylum accommodation who will face street homelessness as a result, and on our member organisations and other frontline agencies working to end destitution across the UK.
[highlight]In our latest statement, Renae Mann, NACCOM’s National Director, commented;[/highlight]
[quote style=”boxed”]We are extremely concerned about the risks posed by evictions from asylum accommodation to those facing homelessness and the wider public. The Government has repeatedly said that we must all play our part in stopping the spread of this deadly virus, yet at the same time they are pressing ahead with evictions that could potentially see thousands of people forced into street homelessness and unable to protect themselves and others.
It is not only incredibly dangerous, it shows a callous disregard for human life during an unprecedented public health emergency that we know disproportionately affects people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, including those from refugee communities.
We are also particularly concerned that evictions are happening in areas which are subject to Tier 2 and Tier 3 ‘high alert’ lockdown measures – a move that goes directly against the Government’s own stated commitment to resume evictions only in areas of low risk. The Home Office has not published details of the number of people subject to eviction, however we’re aware of charities in Manchester, Halifax, Wolverhampton, Liverpool and Nottingham that have all reported instances of people receiving eviction letters in the last couple of weeks, and we expect that this is going to increase over the coming weeks.
Charities up and down the country are already struggling to give people the care and support that they need to stay in safe housing, and in some cases have had to drastically scale back the level of service they can provide during the pandemic. Last year our members accommodated 1,270 people who had been refused asylum, yet we know that capacity for the months ahead is a real concern. Covid-19 has also severely impacted the network’s ability to support people in challenging unfair decisions, and because of this we expect at least another thousand people to fall needlessly into destitution.
Only this week the Government published guidelines stating that night shelters should ‘only be used as a last resort’ due to the risk posed by Covid-19 in this type of setting. Local Authorities will also struggle to provide emergency accommodation to people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) unless there is a fully funded duty for them to do so. There was never enough capacity to meet the need before the pandemic – now the safety net is hanging by a thread.
Against such a backdrop, 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 decision to press ahead with evictions. We urge the government to stop evicting people from their asylum accommodation immediately. [quote style=”boxed”]
Having a safe place to stay during the Covid-19 crisis is essential if we are to protect ourselves and others. The Government has been clear; to stop the spread of the virus, we must all follow the public health guidelines. Yet thousands of people with negative asylum decisions are being sent eviction notices in the next few weeks that will force them into street homelessness just as the UK faces a second wave of Covid-19.
[highlight]LM was street homeless as lockdown was announced. He explained how traumatic this experience was for him:[/highlight]
[quote style=”boxed”] Yeah, just before the lockdown, everyone was scared to have me in their house, because I have an underlying condition and I am vulnerable. It’s almost like I had the virus because I am vulnerable. They didn’t want me around anymore, “look, we don’t want you here, we have to isolate’ so I have to stay on the street. It’s very scary, I was panicking, when I heard if you have an underlying health condition you are more likely to die. So I thought I was going to die, it was very worrying, very dangerous ~ LM from East Africa/West London. [quote style=”boxed”]
[highlight]What needs to happen[/highlight]
To continue to protect everyone from COVID-19, the following measures must be implemented immediately by the Home Office, and the housing departments for all constituent nations of the UK:
- The Home Office must halt their plans to resume evictions for people who have been refused asylum, and further extend protections from evictions in the devolved nations. There must be no evictions into homelessness from asylum accommodation for people with NRPF for at least the next 12 months or longer while COVID-19 poses a public health risk;
- An end to No Recourse to Public Funds conditions, including those without leave to remain;
- A fully funded duty for Local Authorities to provide emergency accommodation to all those with nowhere safe to stay, regardless of their immigration status;
- Increasing the move on period for people recently granted refugee status to at least 56 days.
>>> For more information about why the ban on asylum evictions for those with negative decisions should be reinstated, please see our joint briefing document with Asylum Matters.<<<
[highlight]Take action to help us #StopAsylumEvictions[/highlight]
We’re asking members and supporters to take action to help us stop asylum evictions; there are lots of ways that you can participate.
➡️ Get in touch with local decision makers
Below are some template resources, produced in partnership with Asylum Matters, that we encourage you to use and adapt to make as relevant as possible, whilst maintaining the strongest possible message to the Home Secretary: the Home Office must immediately halt their plans to resume evictions for people who have been refused asylum.
- Use this template letter to MPs which has been written for NACCOM members and groups engaged in frontline destitution services;
- Use this template letter to MPs for groups who aren’t engaged in frontline service provision;
- Use this template letter to local authorities to ask your local council to speak up to oppose these plans;
- Use this template letter to MPs for individuals if you’re an individual wishing to contact your MP.
➡️ Send a message to the Home Secretary
As part of World Homeless Week (4th – 11th October 2020), and to mark 21 days (the eviction ‘notice period’ for those given a negative decision) since the Home Office announced its move to restart evictions, we asked supporters to join with us in sending a message to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, asking her to #StopAsylumEvictions now.
The Home Office’s move to evict people into homelessness during the Covid-19 crisis will leave thousands without accommodation and facing street homelessness. We want to tell the Home Secretary that having a safe place to stay during the pandemic is vital to keep everyone protected.
Over 60 organisations participated in our Day of Action by creating over 50 paper houses and messages telling the Home Secretary that until everyone is safe, no-one is: the Home Office must immediately halt its plans to resume evictions for people who have been refused asylum.
Watch our Day of Action film below:
If you would like to join in the campaign and send your own house and message to Priti Patel, it’s not too late. Here’s how:
Step One: Make a paper house! Create a simple paper house (see our short films below) using A4 paper, or use your own design.
Step Two: Write your message inside.
Here are some suggested messages, but feel free to write your own.
1, Dear Home Secretary, everyone should have a safe place to stay during the Covid-19 pandemic. Please #StopAsylumEvictions now!
2, Dear Home Secretary, evicting people into street homelessness during a deadly pandemic is reckless and inhumane. Please #StopAsylumEvictions now!
3, Dear Home Secretary, having a safe place to stay during the Covid-19 crisis is essential if we are to protect ourselves and others. Please #StopAsylumEvictions now!
Step Three: Take a photo of your house and message. If your message is not clearly visible, please take a separate picture of this.
Step Four: Post your photo/s and message on social media and/or email them to NACCOM.
When posting your photo/s to social media, please repeat your written message using the hashtag #StopAsylumEvictions, and tag in;
If you’re unable to post to social media, or would rather email your photos to NACCOM, please send them to [email protected] and indicate whether or not we can share your name/organisation when sharing your photos on our social media channels.
Step 5: Post to the Home Secretary. Post your letter to the Home Secretary at:
For the attention of the Home Secretary
Rt Hon Priti Patel
2 Marsham Street
We also intend to create an image montage of all the houses/messages which will then be sent to the Home Secretary alongside a written letter from NACCOM.
➡️ Ongoing advocacy
Longer term, alongside many others, we want to see significant changes to national policy to allow everyone to be protected from homelessness. But for now, the message is simple. No-one should be forced into homelessness, not least in the middle of a public health pandemic.
See here for our joint briefing document with Asylum Matters published in June, which included a new fully funded duty for local authorities to provide accommodation to everyone at risk of homelessness, regardless of immigration status, and an end to NRPF conditions for everyone, including those without leave to remain.
In partnership with others across the refugee/migrant and homelessness sectors, we are also working to secure parliamentary scrutiny of the decision and are exploring different ways of making our voices heard as loudly as possible.
➡️ Members; complete our short survey
We also need your help to understand what provision there is and where the gaps are so we can best challenge the Home Office’s assumption that the charity sector will be the ones to meet the need that this decision creates. NACCOM members are encouraged to complete this short survey to understand your provision and help us identify gaps in capacity.