Dozens of refugee households facing homelessness in Luton

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A refugee charity has branded the rise "tragic yet predictable"

Dozens of refugee households were facing homelessness in Luton in the last quarter of 2023, new figures show.

The number of asylum seekers living in temporary accommodation has grown massively over the past year across England.

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Data from the Department of Housing, Levelling Up and Communities shows 37 households living in supported asylum accommodation in Luton had received support from the council for being homeless – known as homelessness duties – in the last quarter of 2023.

A homeless person sleeping rough in a doorway in London. Picture: Yui Mok/PA WireA homeless person sleeping rough in a doorway in London. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire
A homeless person sleeping rough in a doorway in London. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

These included one household on 'prevention' duties – and therefore deemed to be at risk of being made homeless – and 36 receiving relief duties, having already lost their homes. Over the same period in 2022, the total figure was five.

Across the country, around 5,800 refugee households received these duties at the end of 2023 – up from 1,390 a year before.

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said the rise in refugee homelessness was the "tragic yet predictable consequence of a dysfunctional system".

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Currently, refugees have 28 days to move on to regular benefits once their refugee status is granted.

But Mr Solomon says it is "simply unrealistic" to expect someone to secure housing and a stable income in that time, meaning refugees often end up without a home.

He said: "The day they are granted refugee status should be a day of immense relief and celebration. But it’s not, because by giving people such a limited time to start anew, the risk of becoming homeless and destitute is felt immediately."

He urged the Government to work with local authorities to extend the 'move-on' period to 56 days.

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Many of these households were in London, with 1,420 homeless refugee families in the capital. This was followed by the North West, which had 1,210.

Meanwhile, 230 refugee households were homeless in the East of England – a rise from 50 a year earlier.

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: "Councils continue to see growing demand for housing advice and support as they process a backlog of claims from those seeking asylum."

They said housing shortages mean those leaving asylum accommodation will struggle to find homes, and the organisation wants to work with the Government to improve the system of housing asylum seekers.

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They continued: "This requires a national, regional and local approach to solving pressing housing needs across all schemes that welcome new arrivals to the UK.

"Councils do not receive funding for people whose asylum claim has been granted and also need urgent confirmation of the funding available for their role in asylum for 2024-25."

A government spokesperson said the refugees' 28 days to move on from asylum accommodation begins when their biometric residence permit is issued. This could give them longer than 28 days between the refugee status being granted and the end of the 'moving-on' period.

The spokesperson also said: "Support is also available through Migrant Help and their partners, which includes advice on how to access Universal Credit, the labour market and where to get assistance with housing.

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"We are working to make sure individuals have the support they need following an asylum decision, and to help local authorities better plan as we reduce the number of asylum seekers awaiting a decision."