REFUGEES are being left hungry and homeless because of a rule that withdraws accommodation and subsistence payments from those who have won asylum status, 28 days after it is granted, a report says.
England’s Forgotten Refugees: Out of the fire and into the frying pan, a report by the Refugee Council on “forgotten refugees” in Britain, says that the 28-day period was “known as the ‘grace’ or ‘move on’ period, and it is expected that the newly recognised refugee will be able to secure housing and income in this timeframe”.
But this expectation was unrealistic, the report found. Refugees who could not find immediate employment had to apply for mainstream benefits, and these did not come through quickly, leaving the majority reliant on food banks, charities, and friends.
A series of interviews, with 11 refugees, revealed that the amount of time between the granting of asylum status and receipt of benefits ranged between 21 and 201 days. With reference to housing, 81 out of a further 100 who came to the Refugee Council for help had been evicted, or were about to be made homeless. Some told the Council that the process left them feeling suicidal.
The study contrasts the arrangements for new asylum seekers with those coming to the UK on resettlement programmes, such as the scheme for Syrian refugees announced last year.
It states: “The Government’s flagship resettlement programme for Syrian refugees demonstrates that ministers clearly understand that refugees need specialist support to integrate into British society if they are to successfully begin rebuilding their lives. All refugees arriving via this programme receive personalised, tailored and government-funded integration support.
“In stark contrast, there is no government-funded specialist integration support for refugees who have not been resettled here, and have instead been granted asylum.
“Without the support of charities, many of the refugees in this research would have experienced more acute problems. . . Voluntary organisations successfully advocated for people to prevent eviction, and support them in their search for accommodation and income.
“Unfortunately not all newly recognised refugees will be able to access this kind of support, leaving them to navigate this confusing time on their own.”
The Refugee Council is recommending that the Government introduce an integration support service for newly recognised refugees, and that asylum support should not be stopped until the first mainstream benefit is paid in.