Home Office to hold on evicting asylum seekers during lockdown

Aaron Walawalkar
Photograph: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images

The Home Office will stop evicting asylum seekers from government accommodation for the next three months while the UK remains in coronavirus lockdown, the British Red Cross has said.

Home Office minister Chris Philp wrote to the charity on Friday to confirm that people would not be asked to leave their asylum accommodation once their claim or appeal had been decided.

The move, which will be reviewed in June this year, comes in response to measures introduced this week ensuring people do not leave their homes unnecessarily to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

In a letter to the charity, Philp said: “The practical outcome is that those who would ordinarily have their support stopped because their asylum claim or appeal has been rejected, will remain accommodated.”

He said that those who had been granted refugee status - and so would normally be required to make their own arrangements - would also be able to remain in their current accommodation. “I expect this decision to considerably relieve pressures on local authorities,” he added.

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Home Office officials have asked accommodation providers to source additional capacity across the UK in anticipation that the changes will mean the supported asylum population will grow.

The British Red Cross welcomed the announcement after it had called on the Home Office to take urgent steps to bring the asylum system in line with the lockdown guidance.

The announcement would mean that about 50,000 people were spared the threat of losing their accommodation in the coming months, it added.

Alex Fraser, UK director of refugee support and restoring family links at the British Red Cross, said: “Nobody should be at risk of homelessness and destitution, and this is an important first step to ensuring that people are able to protect themselves, their families and their communities.

“Steps like this are vital to ensuring that everyone has access to secure accommodation, financial support and healthcare at this time. We look forward to continuing to work with the government to secure further changes to make this a reality.”