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Refugee charity flooded with requests for London hosts following ‘changes to Home Office eviction notices’

 (Daniel Hambury/@stellapicsltd)
(Daniel Hambury/@stellapicsltd)

Londoners with a spare room are being urged to host refugees as a charity becomes flooded with requests for accommodation in the capital, after many were told they had seven days to leave Home Office accommodation.

Refugees at Home, a charity that matches refugees and asylum seekers with hosts, said it has received 20 urgent applications for hosts in London over the last few days and is receiving new referrals hourly.

Those in need of housing are all single people from countries including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iran.

The surge in demand comes after the Home Office changed the way it implements its policy on serving eviction notices to those staying in hotels, according to a number of charities.

Previously, people who have been granted refugee status would then be given eviction notices, allowing them up to 28 days to leave their Home Office asylum accommodation, Refugees at Home said.

But now the 28 days appears to start from the day refugee status is granted, not the date that a person receives the news, which can often be delayed when documentation is given to a housing manager or lawyer.

The charity said many refugees are now being served with a ”notice to quit” letter giving them just seven days to vacate.

Some had been awaiting news of their asylum application for years before having to leave their accommodation at very short notice.

Refugees at Home said it’s having a big impact on London, where many asylum seekers were housed in temporary accommodation.

Executive Director Carly Whyborn said: “As part of its attempt to deal with the backlog in considering asylum cases, it seems the Home Office has speeded up the eviction process for those granted refugees status.

“That means that what should be a really positive time for people – learning that their refugee status has been granted – is instead adding yet more stress as people are given less than a week to leave their homes and find their feet.

“London is being particularly affected as so many people seeking asylum are based in Home Office accommodation here. We urgently need hosts in the capital to open their doors and provide a room for newly-recognised refugees as they start the next steps in their life in the capital.

“Hosting will be temporary and short-term – we are not asking hosts to commit to a six month placement, as they are required to do under the Ukrainian schemes. We assess our guests prior to placing them with hosts, and we are on hand to offer advice and support to hosts throughout the placement.”

Leading migrant sector expert Daniel Sohege warns that refugees who only have seven days notice of eviction will drive people into exploitation and homelessness.

“The inevitable outcome is that refugees are made homeless, which increases pressures on other services and local authorities. This isn’t even performative cruelty. It is just poor policy and short-termist thinking,” Mr Sohege wrote on social media.

NACCOM, a membership organisation working with many hosting organisations across the UK, said: “Our members have been reporting instances of homelessness due to this change in Home Office practice.”

The Home Office said its policy has not changed.

A spokesperson said: “An asylum seeker remains eligible for asylum support for a prescribed period from the day they are notified of the decision on their claim. This is clearly communicated to the individual in writing.

“We encourage individuals to make their onward plans as soon as possible after receiving their decision, whether that is leaving the UK following a refusal, or taking steps to integrate in the UK following a grant.”