According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there were 126,720 refugees and 45,244 asylum seekers in the UK in 2018. Having left their homes in search of safety they are met with hatred, destitution, isolation, long waits, and poverty. Making homelessness and clothing charities their only option.
Asylum seekers are known to be living in poverty because they are expected to live on £5.39 per day. Being forbidden from earning a wage while their claim is being processed these individuals are left cut off, often placed in inadequate housing, without satisfactory medical provision and cultural services, leading to a slippery slope into poverty.
When asylum seekers and their families arrive in the UK they have no choice about where they are housed or the standards of the accommodation. The 'Written out of the Picture Report' completed in 2012 discusses the poorly maintained, overcrowded accommodation that is damp and cold, suffering from pests, rotten floorboards, and windows that cannot be opened. With claimants placed in areas with high drug and alcohol issues.
People who are claiming asylum await the decision from the Home Office eagerly to give them a chance to start their lives. They hope to move to an area that has cultural support networks, familiar faces, and a place that they can feel safe from hate and crime as well as a home that provides comfort. Finally allowing them to find somewhere without the health dangers. When the decision finally arrives they are given 28 days before all support stops. This includes eviction from their home as they are no longer eligible for asylum housing. Even though they are living in a home that is dangerous and away from cultural support; all of a sudden, they have the realisation that they are facing homelessness within days.
At this point, their title changes from asylum seeker to refugee. They can now apply for work but need to await their qualifications being found and transferred, a national insurance number is allocated and proof of identification. They can move to communities where they will feel settled but have no local connections to get help from the council so can only look for private properties. They have no job to get a private home, no home to have an address and they are at high risk of homelessness.
Once a refugee has been given leave to stay in the UK they can claim Universal Credits but this takes a minimum of 5 – 6 weeks to start paying out, assuming that they have understood and completed the form correctly. According to the Red Cross, it can take three months, pushing 21% of their service users into poverty.
Unfortunately, refugees do not get automatic help from the council in regards to housing. For this to happen the applicant must have dependent children, be pregnant, or under 21 years of age. There is a possibility that the council will allow a refugee to be prioritised if they have a disability or trauma.
Whether refugees are aware of this is another matter. Often, when someone receives a letter stating that they are not going to be rehoused, they are unaware of the other potential routes, especially if they are unfamiliar with the system. This leads to people who have been granted refugee status in a situation where they see no other option other than homelessness.
Throughout this whole process asylum seekers and refugees are facing extreme poverty. To get food, they are visiting food banks, for heating, they are relying on charitable donations. To have clothes on their back, they are relying on charities like the Clothing Collective. If they are unaware of these charities, they may be forced to look for underground work and face potential modern slavery situations while in unregulated work. As they are not in systems, no one misses them and they become the invisible homeless.
Other than support from charity services, a refugee integration loan was introduced but it is not guaranteed and the amount borrowed needs to be returned. How much is available to borrow depends on the ability to pay back the loan (without work) and how much is left within the fund. It is not to be used for essential living requirements such as food and clothing. It can be used for housing deposits, although severe discrimination is faced with many private landlords refusing to let homes to people without British passports.
Finding themselves stuck in a position where they are unable to get help from any direction, charity services are trying to pick these people up and support them in the best way possible, to give them an awareness of what can be done, to advocate on their behalf and to provide them with the essential things in life, like food and clothing.
To help those in need, you can make donations to the Clothing Collective [here]
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