Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

Homelessness among Refugees

by Lloyd on 17.07.18 in Uncategorised
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) for opening the debate. Many people have been shocked by the recent report from the No Accommodation Network, which found that 28% of guests of its night shelters were refugees. But that statistic is not surprising when we consider what this Government have done to restrict and dispossess refugees in this country.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) for opening the debate. Many people have been shocked by the recent report from the No Accommodation Network, which found that 28% of guests of its night shelters were refugees. But that statistic is not surprising when we consider what this Government have done to restrict and dispossess refugees in this country.

I am not surprised by the statistics, since asylum seekers are not allowed to work and are forced to rely on state support of just £36.95 a week. I would be unable to live on that and I suspect that many people present would be unable to live a decent life on that, either. When claiming asylum, refugees are given no choice of accommodation or location; they are nearly always placed in hard-to-let properties where other people do not want to live and conditions are poor—damp and mould are rife. They are not the kind of conditions in which I, hon. Members or members of our community would expect to live, so why on earth do we put some of the most vulnerable in those kinds of properties?

The Home Office gives those newly granted asylum fewer than 28 days to start a new life, to leave accommodation and find housing, benefits, employment and a national insurance number. I am not surprised by that, because this Government have a hostile environment policy. The report found a direct link between this Government’s failed move-on policy and the high amount of homeless refugees in the UK. There is a direct link between this Government’s inaction and the more than 17,000 people who approached the charity Crisis last ​year with nowhere to live after leaving asylum accommodation. That figure has more than doubled in the three short years since 2015.

I am not surprised by the report, because the end game of this Government is an immovable commitment to the politics of restriction. Restrictive policies are designed to prevent and deter individuals from seeking asylum, and to be less welcoming and deny safety to those who need it most. It is precisely because of those policies that we need to have this debate. Why do refugees account for 28% of those in night shelters for the homeless, when refugees account for just 0.25% of the population? Why do refugees deserve less?

Some people claim that refugees do not deserve the same rights as British-born people. Some people say that refugees present a threat to our sovereignty and our security, because anyone who reaches the border is clearly a threat. The reality, however, is that it is the dangerous fanatics who are a threat, so why are this Government pursuing policies that those fanatics would applaud? Rights are not claimed by virtue of being British born or even of having citizenship, but by being a human being. The UK has signed up to commitments that we must fulfil. As a human right, the right to a decent place to live is no exception.

The Government must take steps to ensure that the Homelessness Reduction Act can be extended to refugees and that it is properly enforced, particularly in respect of support for an extra number of days. The Government’s inaction is drastically out of sync with the efforts of certain Departments to prevent homelessness and reduce rough sleeping in other parts of the population. How can we claim we have made progress if we have not supported the most vulnerable in our society? Refugees escape war, torture and see the most horrific things imaginable. They deserve to be welcomed and to be given decent accommodation.

Under the last Labour Government, the refugee integration and employment service offered 12 months of support for refugees’ access to housing, education, social security and the job market.

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Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

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