Refugee Council calls on London Mayor candidates to pledge support for homeless refugees - Refugee Council
February 24, 2021

Refugee Council calls on London Mayor candidates to pledge support for homeless refugees

The Refugee Council is calling on the London Mayor candidates to publicly promise to address refugee homelessness in London, and write this commitment into their election manifestos.

Newly recognised refugees face a myriad of barriers to accessing private rented sector housing, including little or no money for a deposit or advance rental payments, language barriers, discrimination and a lack of local knowledge. The Refugee Council’s new report Keys to the City [PDF]  sets out the difficulties refugees face in accessing private rented accommodation, and calls on the next Mayor to set up a City Hall fund to cover the up-front cost of a tenancy deposit for new refugees.

When refugees receive their status, usually after a perilous journey to the UK and many months of living on the breadline while waiting for a decision on their asylum claim, they have just 28 days to find somewhere to live before they are evicted from their asylum accommodation. Refugees are banned from working while their claim is being processed, so they are unable to save up for a housing deposit or advance rental payments. As a direct result, from the moment they receive their much-awaited refugee status, virtually all refugees are at high risk of homelessness.

The Refugee Council runs a private rented sector scheme, and a woman-only housing project, to help new refugees find a suitable property and avoid homelessness. But the Refugee Council only has the capacity to help a fraction of those who need this crucial support, and the severe shortage of affordable housing in London makes finding an appropriate property incredibly challenging. The private rented sector scheme is typically only able to find a suitable home for one in three of the refugees it supports.

Scaling up this support would significantly reduce refugee homelessness in London. This is why the Refugee Council is launching a campaign to call on the London Mayoral candidates to pledge support for homeless refugees and publicly commit to including concrete measures to address refugee homelessness in their election manifestos.

Londoners can support this campaign by signing our email action calling for the London Mayoral candidates to pledge support for homeless refugees.

Emmanuel*, a 31 year old refugee from Namibia, said:

“You get your status and you’re excited that you can get on with your life, but then, you get another knock. You have no resources to be independent, no foundation. I only had 28 days to find somewhere, it was impossible. I ended up in a hostel. I applied to around 40
landlords, but nobody gave me a chance, they all rejected me. I felt like I was in the middle of the sea, trying to get to shore. Eventually I gave up.

It was a terrible time, but Adonis at the Refugee Council came through for me – he helped me find somewhere without having to pay a deposit. Two weeks later I was in my new home. I can’t thank him enough, I would be homeless without his help.”

*Name has been changed.

Ahmed, a 31 year old refugee from Somalia, said:

“House hunting in a big city where you don’t know anyone is a nightmare. The system is totally different to where I come from. You have to go to the council, you have to apply, phone the landlord, they ask if you are taking benefits. It’s a very long process, and they don’t make you feel welcome.”

Adonis, Private Rented Sector Project Coordinator, said:

“How can refugees pay a housing deposit when they arrive with nothing and are banned from working? It breaks my heart to see refugees go from the joy of receiving their status to facing the terrifying prospect of sleeping rough within a matter of days.

In the past year, the private rented sector scheme I run has prevented dozens of refugees from becoming homeless in London. We know how to fix this problem, but we don’t have the resources to help everyone, which is why the next Mayor of London must make this service available to every refugee who needs help.”

Orla, Housing and Advice Worker, said:

“As someone who supports refugee women every day, I can’t stress how important this campaign is. Shamefully, many landlords do discriminate against refugees—too many times I’ve had landlords turn down an offer as soon as they realise my client is a refugee. Without specialist support refugees face huge obstacles to accessing a tenancy.”

Enver Solomon, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said:

“It’s a tragedy that one of the first documents newly recognised refugees receive is an eviction notice. London is a wealthy and cosmopolitan city, full of opportunities, yet for too many refugees their welcome is blighted by an imminent threat of homelessness.

We call on every London Mayoral candidate to pledge support for refugees who face the prospect of sleeping rough. A specialist private rented sector scheme is a low-cost solution that delivers life-changing benefits to new refugees across the capital.”