UK (Sky News)

Coronavirus: Evictions of asylum seekers paused to stop spread of COVID-19

By March 29, 2020 No Comments
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The Home Office has paused all evictions of asylum seekers for three months as part of efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus.

No one will be removed from government-supported accommodation until at least June, even if their claim or appeal has been rejected.

The concession means that asylum seekers due for deportation will continue receiving support in the UK.



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The British Red Cross says the move will ensure nearly 50,000 people are not threatened with losing their homes in the coming months as the coronavirus crisis continues.

In a letter sent to the humanitarian organisation, Home Office minister Chris Philp said “we must do all we can to ensure that people remain in their homes and do not travel or move around unnecessarily”.

The pause also means that asylum seekers who have had their claim accepted will not be forced to find alternative accommodation within the usual 28-day window.

Alex Fraser, UK director of refugee support at the British Red Cross, said: “It’s very welcome news that the Home Office will temporarily halt all evictions from asylum accommodation.

“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.”

Asylum support payments will also be granted to all those who have applied for them, including those who have had their claim rejected.



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The move is likely to increase pressure on the asylum system, though, with the Home Office admitting it may lead to “some difficult decisions at very short notice”.

Additional housing will also be needed, including contingency accommodation to allow asylum seekers to self-isolate if they show symptoms of COVID-19.

The global pandemic has also presented challenges to the system through which foreign nationals are removed from the UK.

In recent weeks, more than 300 people who were due to be deported have been released from immigration removal centres, according to detention charities.

Those working in the humanitarian sector say it is not known how many of these detainees have been released for health reasons and how many are currently unable to be deported to their country of origin because of border restrictions brought on by the pandemic.

Writing on Twitter, the Home Office said: “It is right that we protect the public from dangerous criminals, which is why the vast majority of detainees still in immigration removal centres are foreign national offenders.”



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Support group Detention Action said additional protective measures for those in removal centres will also now be brought in.

But a cross-bench group of MPs has written to the home secretary saying the measures being put in place to protect detainees are “inadequate” and have come “far too late”.

Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration Detention and SNP MP Alison Thewliss said: “We believe the Home Office may have put detainees, many of whom suffer from poor health – including the conditions that put people at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 – at unnecessary additional risk of contracting and/or transmitting the disease.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The safety and health of people in our accommodation and the communities in which they live is of the utmost importance.

“As part of government measures to fight coronavirus and ensure people remain in their homes and do not travel unnecessarily no one will be asked to leave asylum accommodation over the next three months.

“We will continue to adjust our processes and procedures where necessary and appropriate.”

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