Refugee Homelessness: A National Crisis

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By Gabriel Salter, Sona Circle

Refugee homelessness is rampant in the UK and the government is culpable.

Hostile laws ban asylum seekers from working and only gives refugees 28 days to get housing before they are evicted from state shelters. This policy has made thousands of refugees homeless.

We must push the government to protect refugees from homelessness through allowing asylum seekers to work, increasing the time refugees have to find private housing and providing more public housing for the homeless.

Housing should be a human right, not a privilege.

How bad is it?

The scale of this crisis is vast. Roughly a quarter of people using homeless shelters in the UK are refugees. That means thousands of people, who have already experienced extreme hardship, are being failed by our government and left without shelter. We must work to change this.

What’s causing this crisis?

Refugees face many barriers to gaining shelter in the UK. The prime culprit for this is UK refugee law. It insists refugees find housing only 28 days after their asylum application is accepted. This means that many refugees simply don’t have enough time to find private accommodation.

The law also bans asylum seekers from working whilst their refugee applications are processed. This means once an application for refugee status is accepted, they often have no money to pay for a rent deposit. They are faced with only 28 days to raise the funds necessary. This is unattainable to most.

Those who do gain private rented accommodation are more vulnerable to eviction than the average tenant. This is due to minimal employment opportunities for refugees and racist discrimination from landlords and employers.

Covid-19 is making this worse.

The pandemic has intensified this issue. This is because it has caused roughly 32% of refugees to lose their jobs. Refugees are now 4 times more likely to be unemployed than the average Briton. These refugees are unable to pay their rent and therefore face eviction.

How can you help?

There are multiple ways you can help end this crisis and protect refugees from homelessness.

Volunteer and donate to organisations like Refugee Action, Choose Love and Refugee Council who are pushing politicians to ‘lift the ban’ and allow asylum seekers to work, provide refugees with financial support and give public housing to homeless refugees.

Sign this petition calling on the Mayor of London and the government to do this. Use the hashtags #EndRefugeeHomelessness and #LiftTheBan to raise attention to this issue on social media.

Join a tenant’s union like London Renters Union, Acorn or Living Rent. These organisations provide legal and physical protection for their members – both refugees and others – against eviction or discrimination by landlords. They also pressure the government to ensure everyone has access to housing and prevent evictions and homelessness. If you are threatened with eviction or know anyone who is, ask these unions for help.

Donate to the Refugee Council’s Private Rented Scheme. This programme helps provide refugees with the deposits they need to access private housing. They have already protected dozens of refugees from homelessness but need more funds to help more people.

Finally, get involved with Sona Circle. We do vital work to reduce refugee homelessness by providing them with apprenticeships and paid internship opportunities. If you know a company interested in hiring refugees or are a refugee seeking work, contact us here.

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