The APPG on Ending Homelessness recently issued a call for evidence on migrant homelessness to contribute to their end of year report on the issue. We submitted our evidence last week in which we shared observations about the impact of destitution on people’s lives, examples of good practice from across the network, and recommendations for change.
People who become homeless at the hands of the immigration system face huge uncertainty and risks against a backdrop of hostility and fear. There are many areas that need reform. We put together the following recommendations for the APPG on Ending Homelessness report based on evidence and contributions from across the network:
1) Access to quality free legal advice for all immigration matters
Improving access to quality legal advice for asylum applicants both at the beginning and end of the process would reduce the numbers of people who are refused asylum, left destitute and unable to return to their home countries.
In addition, bringing immigration advice back into scope for legal aid would enable migrants with non-asylum related immigration claims to access support and, where appropriate, regularise their status.
2) A straightforward and efficient immigration system that treats people humanely
For more on this topic see Refugee Action’s latest campaign and vision for the future of the asylum process, ‘Fair and Effective’.
The process of applying for asylum, and asylum support, should be made simpler and more accountable. The government should end the process of having to go to Croydon to apply for asylum and Liverpool to submit further submissions (as has been achieved in Northern Ireland).
Home Office officials should follow the law correctly when granting asylum support, and ensure that successful applicants do not wait to access support.
Adequate levels of support including housing should be made available to all refused asylum seekers including those who are in the process of preparing a further submission or in the early stages of considering voluntary return.
Healthcare should be free for refused asylum seekers including those who are appeal rights exhausted. Changes to existing regulations that prohibit such access should be reversed and any regulations that are kept should be accompanied by adequate guidance for healthcare staff. For more, see the Asylum Matters briefing on the recent changes to NHS Regulations.
People who have been trafficked or experienced domestic violence, who are not eligible for asylum support and are unable to access employment but who are at risk of exploitation or abuse, should be granted limited access to public funds and supported housing whilst assessing their future options.
3) Permission to work
Work permits should be granted for persons claiming asylum who have been waiting more than 6 months for a decision on their case or who have been refused asylum but cannot be returned to their home country.
In addition, they should be free to apply for any job or to become self-employed, and should not be limited to jobs on the UK Shortage Occupation List.
4) Improving the availability of independent advice and support
More independent advice should be made available to migrants, especially in relation to assisted voluntary return, so that people who have been refused asylum can be supported to identify routes forward.
More support should also be made available to migrants applying for leave to remain via non-asylum routes or renewing their visas, to ensure people do not fall out of the system.
5) Extension of the Move On period post granting of refugee status
Refugees should be able to remain in their Home Office accommodation until suitable accommodation is found for them, in line with the Homelessness Reduction Act. They should not be made homeless after 28 days.
6) Joint working to increase accommodation for all migrants
Refused applicants should not be evicted from asylum accommodation within 21 days without a support plan in place. Pathways should be developed with input from Home Office officials, Local Authorities, accommodation providers and voluntary organisations to enable the asylum applicant to clearly identify all their options going forward.
Funding for short-term supported housing which is accessed by refugees and migrants with additional needs (‘exempt accommodation’) should be guaranteed beyond the life of the next Parliament.
Immigration detention should be abolished with funding put back into housing provision, community support and advice services.