Press release (12.12.22) – New data reveals extent of homelessness and destitution experienced by people in the UK asylum and immigration system

New figures from the charity the No Accommodation Network (NACCOM) highlight that people routinely face destitution and homelessness as they try to resolve their immigration status.
• Latest data shows a rise in the number of people facing homelessness directly after leaving Home Office asylum accommodation, as well as an increase in the number of refugees needing support.
• Nearly 4,000 people accessed destitution payments from charities last year in order to meet their basic needs.
• Despite ongoing challenges presented by Covid-19 and the cost of living crisis, frontline charities are left to provide a vital safety net when Government support fails or is removed.

The charity the No Accommodation Network (NACCOM), which represents 137 frontline organisations across the UK that accommodate and support refugees, people seeking asylum, and other migrants who have limited eligibility to any welfare support, has published new data that highlights how thousands of people in the UK asylum and immigration system were forced to endure homelessness and destitution last year. 

NACCOM’s Annual Survey captures data from its members who provide accommodation and support services to key groups of people in the UK asylum and wider immigration system, including those who are appeal rights exhausted.* The yearly data maps the scale and impact of homelessness and destitution experienced by people the NACCOM network supports across a 12-month period, as well as the burden placed on frontline charities. 

The data, which relates to the period between April 2021 to March 2022**, reveals a devastating picture of an asylum and immigration system that routinely leaves people without stable accommodation and unable to meet their basic needs as they try to resolve their immigration status. Overall, 2,281 people were accommodated by the NACCOM network during this time, with 1,626 of these having little to no access to statutory support due to their immigration status (known as No Recourse to Public Funds). 3,822 people also accessed financial support from charities to alleviate their destitution. 

Bridget Young, NACCOM’s Director, commented: “Our data exposes the scale of need within the asylum and immigration process, when many people are forced to endure months and sometimes years of hardship and indignity, unable to meet even their most basic of needs because they are being locked out of state-funded support, including homelessness support.” 

“If we continue to ignore migrant destitution and homelessness, not only will the Government fail to meet its manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping by 2024, but we will miss a valuable opportunity to build on important lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw so many people with No Recourse to Public Funds successfully accommodated and supported through Everyone In or other relevant devolved schemes.” 

The data is especially significant in a year when charities are still facing enormous challenges to service delivery due to Covid-19, such as reduced volunteer capacity across the network and in some cases service closure, and as the cost of living crisis began to hit both charities and the people they support. Despite this, NACCOM members still delivered a collective 333,845 nights of accommodation across the 12-month period. 

The figures also highlight the burden placed on frontline organisations delivering accommodation and support services to people under immigration control, with charities providing a vital safety net to people who fell through gaps in Government support. This was particularly notable in the increase in the number of people approaching charities for support directly from Home Office accommodation, which rose by a staggering 206% on last year’s figures, underlining the urgent need for improved support pathways to prevent homelessness and destitution when people exit the asylum system. 

The key 2021-2022 data explained: 

  • 2,281 people experiencing destitution were accommodated by the No Accommodation Network across the reporting period, with at least 333,845 nights of accommodation provided by NACCOM members.  
  • Despite this, charities were approached by 1,107 people that they were unable to accommodate – vastly higher than the previous year’s figure of 429 (in 2020-21), showing the scale of unmet need amongst destitute people in the UK asylum and immigration system. 
  • At least 1,626 of those accommodated were people with refugee status and those with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF; normally unable to access state-funded support such as housing and welfare payments due to their immigration status), including people refused asylum. This figure represents a slight decrease from the previous year (1,886 in 2020-21). This is likely the result of several factors, including the continuation of some Covid-19- related emergency provision from the Government and Local Authorities, as well as the current backlog in the asylum system***. An additional factor is in response to the Hostile Environment (and particularly the Nationality and Borders Act and Rwanda plans), which has seen a reluctance by people with NRPF to engage formally with some services for fear of detention and possible removal. 

Of the above; 

  • 748 were people refused asylum 
  • 652 had refugee status  
  • 200 were other people with NRPF (such as EEA migrants) 
  • The 652 people with refugee status accommodated by the network represents a 29% rise from the previous year (562 in 2020-21). 
  • 1,433 people were rough sleeping, or in informal or insecure accommodation, directly before approaching charities for support. This figure indicates that hundreds of people faced barriers to accessing the emergency support pathways provided by the Government and devolved administrations in response to Covid-19. Without the support provided by frontline charities, hundreds more people would have remained street homeless and at risk of Covid-19 during the first waves of the pandemic.  
  • 3,822 people were given financial support during the year, 3,131 of whom were not accommodated. Destitution payments offer an essential lifeline to people experiencing hardship in the asylum and immigration system, particularly as the cost of living crisis begins to bite, however the data underlines the vital importance and outstanding need for accommodation support to alleviate destitution. 
  • 706 people approached members for support directly from Home Office accommodation. This represents an increase of 206% on last year’s numbers – 230 in 2020/2021 – and is indicative of a greater need for more robust support and accommodation amongst people leaving asylum accommodation and hotels. No-one should be made homeless when leaving statutory accommodation – it’s clear that better support is needed prior to leaving Home Office accommodation to help people understand and explore their options. 
  • Pathways out of destitution are possible with the right support. 329 people who had been refused asylum were known to move on from our member services during the 12-month period, by accessing statutory support, asylum accommodation or some form of leave to remain. Legal advice is key to this, with 40 NACCOM members now providing some form of access to legal advice, a slight increase on last year but still a drop in the ocean of what is needed to ensure access to justice for all those in the asylum system.

NACCOM’s Director, Bridget Young, said: “No one should have to face homelessness and destitution at any time, but for thousands of people in the asylum and immigration system, this is the inevitable outcome that awaits them as they try to resolve their immigration status.” 

“Our data is further evidence that people are now being failed at every stage of the asylum process – from a lack of safe routes to claim asylum in the UK, to inappropriate initial accommodation, through to destitution and homelessness as they resolve their claim.”  

“It also clearly highlights the vital role of our frontline members, who step in to provide vital accommodation and support to people in the most challenging of contexts when Government support fails them.”  

“We urge the Government to listen to and learn from the experiences of people in the asylum and immigration system, as well as the charities who support them, and to create humane and workable policies that don’t routinely push people into destitution and homelessness.”  

Notes to editors: 

NACCOM has released a briefing on the Annual Survey Data, available here. 

  • *NACCOM has 137 members; 73 of whom offer accommodation services, 64 of whom offer support services. 55 Full Members (75% of all Full Members) and 30 Associate Members (47% of all Associate Members) responded to this year’s Annual Survey. 
  • **NACCOM members were asked to submit data for a 12-month period between April 2021 and June 2022. 
  • *** Government statistics show a staggering backlog of asylum claims, a high grant rate, and a lack of safe routes – Refugee Council   
  • For more information about this year’s data and methodology, please refer to our accompanying data bulletin. 
  • For any additional enquiries or to request an interview with Bridget Young, NACCOM’s Director, please get in touch with [email protected] or call 07732 036915.