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Huge rise in refugees sleeping rough after Home Office cuts notice period to leave accommodation | UK News

The number of refugees sleeping rough on London’s streets has risen by 800% in two months, following a change in Home Office policy.

The capital is home to around a quarter of the country’s asylum seekers, many of them living in hotels.

Once a person has their refugee status accepted, they are normally given 28 days to leave their state-provided accommodation.

But Sky News has seen evidence that many refugees are getting much less than 28 days, sometimes as little as a week, forcing them into homelessness.

Before August, the 28-day period began when a refugee received their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), necessary for them to access Universal Credit and other benefits.

However, in the summer, the Home Office began counting down from the day a refugee received their asylum decision letter.

Since the BRP and other documents can sometimes take weeks to arrive, some people are being given as little as seven days to find a new place to live.

There were 11 people sleeping rough having just left asylum accommodation in London in July – but by September that figure was 102, a rise of 827%.

The Red Cross estimates that without extra support, 50,000 refugees could be at risk of homelessness across the UK.

The ‘hidden homeless’

London’s deputy mayor for housing, Tom Copley, said that these figures were “only the people we know about on the streets”.

He added: “There are going to be other people who are what we call hidden homeless. They may end up sleeping on sofas, with friends, or other forms of accommodation we’re not aware of.

“And the really tragic thing is this is all really avoidable if the government were just to change some of their policies, like giving a longer notice period, for example.”

The government is speeding up asylum processing to meet its pledge of clearing the backlog of cases by the end of the year.

‘I was terrified’

Adam (not his real name) fled persecution in Yemen in fear for his life.

He waited two years for his asylum claim in the UK to be processed, finishing a PhD in that time. But just days after being granted official refugee status, he was living on the streets.

“I was terrified,” he said. “I had been dreaming about the opportunities, what I will do, how I will start my life here in the UK.

“However, everything changed. Instead of that nice blue-sky scenario I was imagining, I found myself on the street.

“All I was thinking about was a dry, warm place to sleep. The dream’s vanished. I was like: ‘sleep’. That’s it.”

Image:
Adam (L) spoke to Sky News about his experience

Adam was saved by the charity Refugees at Home, who found a family to take him in.

Executive director Carly Whyborn said: “Charities like us are stretched beyond our limits trying to help refugees who are being turfed out at short notice and are facing winter on the streets.

“Three times more people are coming to us for help this year compared to last year. We had 204 referrals in October alone, compared to 69 in October 2022.”

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A coalition of charities including the Red Cross and Refugees at Home, backed by London mayor Sadiq Khan, have called for the notice period to be increased to 56 days, giving refugees time to move on and find somewhere to live.

In a statement, the Home Office told Sky News: Once someone is informed that their asylum claim has been granted, they get at least 28 days notice to move on from their asylum accommodation.

“Support is offered to newly recognised refugees by Migrant Help and their partners, which includes advice on how to access the Universal Credit, the labour market and where to get assistance with housing.

“We work with local authorities to help communities manage the impact of asylum decisions.”

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