Refugees forced to sleep rough due to change in government policy with councils unable to meet demand

23 February 2024, 09:55

Refugees forced to sleep rough due to change in government policy
Refugees forced to sleep rough due to change in government policy. Picture: LBC

By Chris Chambers

LBC can reveal refugees are sleeping rough outside Manchester Town Hall on a nightly basis because they have nowhere else to go.

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In October the government changed the way the 'Move On' period is applied, meaning people who succeed in gaining refugee status have just seven days to leave the accommodation they were in and find somewhere new to live.

But, that is resulting in scores of people in desperate need of accommodation with the Council unable to meet demand.

Cllr Joanna Midgley, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said: "Manchester is a welcoming and caring city. We have always been very willing to play our part in receiving refugees who are fleeing conflict and persecution in their countries of origin and have been granted leave to stay in the UK. This remains the case.

"But the unprecedented rate at which the Government has been taking asylum decisions to clear its backlog, coupled with the rapid eviction of people allowed to stay in the country from their Home Office-funded accommodation, has put significant pressures on our homelessness services due to the number of refugees rough sleeping in the city.

At 6am, in pouring rain, LBC spoke to some of the 60-70 refugees camped outside the Town Hall.

One said: "I'm homeless. I've got a job but I can't afford rent so I've come here to ask for a house. I've been here a couple of months, I need to get a house. I ask the Council inside this building and they can't help my situation. It's very hard.

"I finished my job at 5am and came here to explain my situation. I've been coming many times, but many people are in the queue and homeless. I am alone, I don't have any family. I need a house, I try living with friends sometimes when they are out and I can rest there for a couple of hours. I work in construction and I'm homeless. It's raining, it's cold, I just come here to explain."

Another said: "I stay here every night. I need accommodation. For a week I've not been able to take a shower or change my clothes.

"I'm waiting for a solution, but it is hard. Council are not doing anything for people who have to go back into the city. One week I've been sleeping in front of the Council. I stay here every night."

The issue has been exacerbated by people heading to Manchester from other parts of the country, Cllr Midgley added: "This is not just refugees who were living in this city and Greater Manchester while they were applying for asylum but also people who were housed in other parts of the country for whom Manchester is a magnet, second only to London.

"Rough sleeping in Manchester was on a downward trajectory thanks to the efforts of the Council and its partners but the current challenge with refugees has halted that progress and seen numbers almost double in recent months.

"It is not acceptable or sustainable for the Government to make quick and easy savings to its own budgets at the expense of Manchester and expect us to pick up the tab and the pieces. Nor is it humane to evict people whose claim to be in the country they have accepted onto the streets without support.

"We call upon the Government to urgently give us the funding and other resources to address this difficult issue which they have created."