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England’s Winter Refugee Homelessness Crisis

This winter, makeshift refugee ‘camps’ are expected to spring up across England to cope with the increasing number of those granted the right to remain having to turn to sleeping rough after Home Office evictions. 

Refugees & survivors of trafficking have seen the number of days they have to find accommodation cut by the Home Office in July of this year from 28 days to just seven. 

This has resulted in an large increase in the number of refugees seeking help for homelessness according to refugee and homelessness charities, who warned that ‘camps’ could appear across the country in the next few months.

Seana Roberts, Manager of the Merseyside Refugee Support Network said to The Guardian: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my 25 years in the sector. Normally we might have seen one or two people present themselves as street homeless in a year. Now we’ve got 50 people in the space of six weeks.”

MRSN is looking for landlords to provide short term accommodation, and encouraging refugees to sofa surf temporarily to try and avoid what Seana referred to as “the inevitable, which are camps made up of tents and sleeping bags”.

The Guardian also spoke to a refugee from Eritrea, who has been sleeping rough in Nottingham for a month since he was granted refugee status.

Nottingham Refugee Forum is fundraising for 100 care packages for refugees within the city, which would include basics such as a rucksack, sleeping bag, deodorant, socks, hat, gloves, a toothbrush and toothpaste. 

In North London, 126 refugees have presented themselves to Islington Council as homeless within the last 5 weeks; before mid-August one refugee a month was the average. 

Roulin Kohndoker, a councillor & executive member for Equalities, Culture & Inclusion spoke to The Guardian, saying: “People have been coming to us when they have been given as little as seven days notice to leave their accommodation after being granted refugee status, forcing them into vulnerable situations, rough sleeping & other forms of homelessness”.

A warning also came from Steve Smith, CEO of charity Care4Calais. “Hundreds if not thousands of refugees are facing homelessness, being forced to buy tents and sleep rough in the streets”.

Over 140 refugee & other organisations have written a letter of protest regarding the changes in Home Office practice shortening the eviction period.

One of the signatories, Enver Soloman, Head of the Refugee Council said : “The government is now punishing vulnerable refugees for its gross mismanagement without the support they need”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “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.”