Tens of thousands of refugees are at risk of sleeping rough this Christmas after a Home Office drive to hit Rishi Sunak’s asylum case target, the umbrella body for local councils has said.
The Local Government Association said councils across England and Wales were facing a “perfect storm” as the government worked to clear 92,327 asylum cases by the end of the year.
People who had been granted refugee status while staying in asylum accommodation were not being given enough notice to find new places to stay, councils have said.
In December last year the prime minister pledged that the government would clear 91,000 initial asylum applications by the end of 2023.
The LGA said people granted refugee status were being moved out of state-provided accommodation without enough time to find a new home.
Some reports suggest people have been given as little as a week’s notice, although the immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, has insisted the official policy remains 28 days’ notice.
Last month, the British Red Cross said the number of people it supported who had been granted refugee status but had become destitute had more than doubled since early summer.
The LGA chair, Shaun Davies, said councils were “facing a perfect storm in the run-up to Christmas which could see tens of thousands of refugees having to sleep rough”.
“Demand for temporary accommodation is already at an all-time high, with councils struggling to source suitable accommodation and cater for current needs,” he said.
“Pushing tens of thousands of refugees out of Home Office accommodation on to councils will overload the system and mean they simply cannot provide for these vulnerable people’s needs.”
Councils have demanded that the government ensure people are given the full 28 days’ notice before they have to leave Home Office accommodation.
The LGA said no one should be asked to leave their asylum accommodation in Christmas week and that this period should not be counted towards the overall numbers of days’ notice given.
This pause – which the LGA said should also happen during extreme weather – could reduce the risk of street homelessness, the organisation said.
Before August, the 28-day period began when a refugee received their biometric residence permit (BRP), necessary for them to access universal credit and other benefits. However, in the summer, the Home Office began counting down from the day a refugee received their asylum decision letter.
Sky News found that the BRP and other documents can sometimes take weeks to arrive, which meant some people were being given as little as seven days to find a new home.
Figures published this month by the Home Office showed the legacy backlog of asylum applications stood at 33,253 as of 29 October.
To meet the government target, about 16,630 applications would need to be cleared each month before 31 December.
A government spokesperson said: “Once someone is informed that their asylum claim has been granted, they get at least 28 days’ notice to move on from their asylum accommodation.
“Support is offered to newly recognised refugees by Migrant Help and their partners, which includes advice on how to access universal credit, the labour market and where to get assistance with housing.”