Thousands of asylum seekers who were given emergency shelter at the start of the pandemic are now being evicted. A Home Office decision to start evicting asylum seekers has caused a protest against the decision.
Leader of Glasgow city council, Susan Aitken has written to Priti Patel describing the move as ‘unconscionable’ and saying “The city stands ready to fight this”.
Three elected mayors, faith leaders from all the major religions and hundreds of NGO’s coordinated by Naccom (No Accommodation Network), Asylum Matters and Migrants Rights Network have sent open letters to Priti Patel calling for an immediate halt to these mass eviction plans.
Eviction letters were received from 15th September informing that they would be evicted this week. The Home Office eviction letter informed the recipient that their support would be discontinued from 7th October, stating “As you are a failed asylum seeker you are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the United Kingdom. If you do not take reasonable steps to leave you face action to enforce your departure”.
According to a Home Office strategic engagement group meeting the department is reviewing 2,000 to 3,000 cases with a view to potential eviction over the next 10 weeks. Thousands of refused asylum seekers have been provided with accommodation by the Home Office at the start of the coronavirus outbreak because of public health concerns about them sleeping rough during the pandemic.
The decision to evict them has coincided with a resurgence in cases of the virus and critics say the Home Office decision makes no sense in either humanitarian or public health terms.
Three elected mayors – Andy Burnham the mayor of Greater Manchester, Jamie Driscoll the north of Tyne mayor and Steve Rotheram the mayor of the Liverpool city region all signed a letter saying that “People who have sought sanctuary in our towns and cities and others with no recourse to public funds are all at risk of street homelessness and destitution”.
A refused asylum seeker who has serious mental health problems reported that five Home Office contractors turned up at her door just after 6am and wanted to remove her from her accommodation, arrest her and detain her. She was not there at the time but was informed by others afterwards. One asylum seeker who had answered the door said there were a lot of children and women living at this accommodation and they were all terrified by the dawn raid.
Another refused asylum seeker who received an eviction letter said they felt so hopeless and down, and didn’t know what to do. The Home Office had asked them to sign a form and send it back to them, but they didn’t understand what the form was.
Deputy director of Asylum Matters, Lorna Gledhill said: “To evict people seeking asylum from their homes during the middle of a deadly pandemic when you are asking people to stay home to stay safe is completely unacceptable. Our message is simple – everyone must be protected from homelessness, particularly during this pandemic. The Home Office must urgently halt their plans to resume evictions”.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “As the home secretary has said, we are determined to reform the broken asylum system to make it firmer, fairer and compassionate to those fleeing oppression, persecution and tyranny, but tough on those who abuse our system”.
“Those who have received a negative asylum decision, which means they have no right to remain in the UK, are given a 21 day grace period. During this time they are expected to make steps to return to their country of origin while still remaining in accommodation and receiving support. Cessations of support have now resumed following a temporary pause, reducing the demand on the asylum system”.