In March, the UK government announced a pause in the evictions of people who had had their asylum applications refused (and who do not have an outstanding appeal). Now, this measure has been lifted and the government has announced that evictions will begin again. People who have been refused asylum in England have begun to receive notices to leave their accommodation – including in areas of local lockdown, like Greater Manchester. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, evictions are planned to be restarted at a later date.
At a time when Covid-19 cases are again rising exponentially, this decision runs counter to the other actions being taken nationally to protect people and slow the spread of the virus. This is even more striking in Greater Manchester, where we’re still in local lockdown, and when Manchester’s Covid-19 rates are currently the highest in the country. It will make many people homeless and destitute, and vulnerable to a virus that threatens their lives (and which disproportionately affects BAME people). Joe Power, GMIAU’s Destitution Caseworker, said: “The Home Office resuming evictions is utterly ridiculous and just highlights how inconsistent the government has been while managing this pandemic. Many of the people we help are now living on edge, terrified that they will soon become street homeless if the Home Office discontinue their support.”
Many of the people being evicted would have the negative decision overturned if they were to appeal. They’ll now need to rely on charities, already operating with capacities stretched to the limit, for support. As one woman explained on our blog in July, people seeking asylum are prevented from working to create their own income, and have no recourse to public funds.
Joe pointed out that people won’t be able to access informal support they might have had before the pandemic: “Previously many had been sofa surfing and relying on support from family and friends, but this won’t be an option for lots of people now as people that would usually offer support want to protect themselves from the virus. The Home Office’s decision will undoubtedly cause many people to become destitute and they will find themselves struggling even more than they were before the pandemic as their support bases have now dried up.”
We are only as safe as our most vulnerable. In line with this open letter from NACCOM, GMIAU calls for this decision to be reversed, for evictions to be halted immediately and for the government to continue to support the people whose asylum applications have been turned down. The pandemic has forced the government to show compassion for people seeking asylum and other vulnerable people. As we wrote earlier this year, we must use this opportunity to call for an end to the cruel Hostile Environment altogether. Asylum evictions, increasing destitution in our city-region in middle of second wave, means we are all less safe and all more vulnerable. We should all be involved in trying to stop them.