How the chaotic asylum system has left many asylum seekers living a 'nightmare' on the streets

11 December 2023, 13:47

The chaotic system is forcing asylum seekers onto the streets
The chaotic system is forcing asylum seekers onto the streets. Picture: Alamy

By Charlotte Sullivan

As asylum is once again at the centre of discussions in Westminster I’ve been speaking to refugees and charities on the front line who’re warning of a “chaotic” situation which is leaving many of those being granted asylum here, on the streets.

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One man from Iran has been telling me about his experience of coming to the UK after having to leave his home, job and family, for fear of persecution.

With the help of Nazenin Ansari from Kayhan Life, who translated for us, I spoke to Hassan, a 44-year-old man who came to England back in May 2021.

He was recently granted ‘refugee status’ by the Home Office, which means he has permission to stay in the UK now for five years.

But at the same time as he was given this decision, he was made homeless.

It’s something that’s happening to numerous refugees as local councils struggle to keep up with demand for housing.

Hassan told me the day he got his decision should have been a day to celebrate. He says it was a day he was really “waiting for and looking forward to” but turned out to be the start of “a nightmare” as he was evicted from his government accommodation, with nowhere to live and not enough time to access benefits (as this can take up to five weeks).

The local council, who he was told to go to for help, had no accommodation for him to stay in either so he ended up in a night shelter with the help of Refugee Action Colchester.

Hassan told me: “I cannot go to sleep. It is very difficult for me to find a job. I am very stressed and confused.”

Hassan, who is a qualified deep water diver and electrician, says the five days not spent at college learning English, he walks the streets in the cold waiting for the shelter to reopen.

He says he has plans to integrate into society here, but without accommodation, he feels lost: “I had no other choice but to come here.

“I have not come here to live off other people. I have come here to work, to pay taxes, and to be present. I want to contribute to the society here.

“I see all the plans I had for employment and I see the challenges and obstacles and I don't know how I can resolve them. This bothers me a great deal... I don't know where to go or what the future holds.

“I am grateful to Britain. From the moment I came here, I’ve experienced kindness and support from the British people.“And I can understand the difficulties of British citizens who don't feel they can afford all these news immigrants. I have empathy for that.

“But I feel like a child who is just starting to walk alone. I need some support to keep me going so that I can start becoming an active member of society here.”

The charity Refugee Action are calling on the government to act now. 

Head of public affairs and policy, Beatrice Stern, told me “It’s a good thing that the government is clearing it’s backlog but actually this really rapid decision making is adding to the chaos in the system.

She said “almost 1700 refugees became homeless between August and October this year, nearly three times the number in the same period last year” which is “absolutely devastating for people”.

“It’s not what we want to see... There really needs to be a proper process in place. The Government need to... extend the move on period to 56 days so that people have got adequate time to get themselves into work and housing.”

Speaking to the government they told me they’re “committed to ensuring asylum claims are considered without unnecessary delays” and that “support is offered to newly recognised refugees.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Local Government Association told me they have seen a “spike in the number of people requiring housing assistance” and that as councils run out of social housing options, they’re “resorting to private accommodation... (which is causing) significant financial implications on council budgets.”