'It's retraumatising them': Refugees face homelessness after being granted right to live in UK

Refugees are being forced into homelessness due to a worsening housing crisis, ITV News's North of England Correspondent Rachel Townsends reports

Hundreds of refugees are being evicted from their homes and forced into homelessness after being granted the right to live in the UK.

Working as a dentist in Sudan, Amal had a home and was happy. But civil war forced her to flee and after a two year wait, the Home Office granted her leave to remain in the UK.

But with that came a notice of eviction from her shared house in Middlesbrough. 

"I couldn't find a place so I was officially homeless," she told ITV News.

Amal described the hardest part of her experience as the "unknown future" and not knowing where she will be sleeping the following night.

She is one of hundreds of refugees all with a legal right to live in the UK, but with nowhere to go. 

Biniam, a refugee from Eritrea, has been forced to sleep rough due to a lack of available housing Credit: ITV News

Biniam, once an IT engineer in Eritrea, was granted refugee status in November but has been forced to sleep in his friend's cars or on the streets due to a lack of available housing in Leeds.

He said the cold weather makes his nights harder, but added: "I have to face it, I have no other choice."

Last month, the Big Issue reported that around 1,500 refugees were assessed as homeless between August and October 2023, up from 450 in the same period last year.

This rise in homelessness is due in part to a change in the government’s move-on period.

When people seeking asylum receive their refugee status, the Home Office allows them just 28 days to 'move on'.

This means progressing from asylum support and housing to their own accommodation, mainstream benefits, or employment.

In August, the Conservative party reduced the time for newly approved refugees to find a property from 28 days to seven.

It piled undue pressure on local authorities and homelessness services, which were already under immense strain.

Earlier this month, the Home Office U-turned on its decision and reversed the move-on period back to 28 days.

But some charities have warned that more needs to be done to help support refugees, starting with an extension on the move-on period.

Refugee Council's chief executive, Enver Solomon, called for the government to extend the move-on period Credit: ITV News

"Imagine being a refugee, you come here and you're allowed to stay. It should be a moment of joy, it should be a moment where you're supported to stand on your own two feet," Refugee Council's chief executive, Enver Solomon, said.

"Let's not forget that refugees go on to make great contributions to our communities and we need to enable them to do that.

"Twenty-eight days is not enough, it's not long enough and it's a failure of government to not see people as individuals that need help," he added.

On Thursday, after a pause over Christmas, eviction notices will resume. The Home Office says it will work with councils to manage the impact of decisions.

But for people like Amal, Biniam and hundreds more, the reality is another night of fear and another night searching for somewhere safe to sleep.

"The refugees getting status have waited years, it's just retraumatising them and adding to existing trauma," chief executive of homelessness charity Open Door North East, Anna Lewis, said.

"The scale of the problem is vast, it's across the country and we're seeing it in every local authority," she added. "We have great fear about what the future is."

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