Greater Manchester mayoral and local authority leaders have released a joint statement today pledging that they “will not be complicit” in the Home Office policy of enforcing asylum seeker evictions amid winter and Covid.
Andy Burnham, deputy mayors Bev Hughes and Richard Leese, and nine council leaders have written to Priti Patel to express “profound concern” over those asylum seekers who receive a negative decision soon being evicted.
During the first coronavirus lockdown earlier this year, the evictions of refused asylum seekers from Home Office accommodation were paused due to considerations around the impact of homelessness on the spread of the virus.
But the government did not repeat this policy for the second national lockdown, with Home Office sources telling The Guardian last month that refused asylum seekers were again expected to leave the country and would not receive support.
This was despite a court order being issued that instructed the Home Office to halt evictions due to public health concerns and in light of the judge concluding that “the harm and risk cannot readily be reversed”.
Councils were not informed about the change in policy that took place on September 15th and allowed asylum evictions to restart. The government was criticised by councillors for the lack of engagement and consultation with local authorities.
With Greater Manchester placed in Tier 3, local leaders have declared that they are continuing the scheme ‘A Bed Every Night’ and taking a stand against an evictions policy that would “only serve to make extremely vulnerable people more so”.
The ABEN initiative aims to offer regular short-term accommodation for every rough sleeper in Greater Manchester. Burnham has recently announced that the flagship homelessness reduction scheme is being extended amid increased need.
Below is the full text of the Greater Manchester leaders’ open statement.
Across Greater Manchester we are committed to supporting the Government in our shared ambition to eradicate rough sleeping.
This week we have written to the Home Secretary to convey our profound concern at the possibility that those in the asylum system who have received a negative decision could start to be evicted from accommodation. With no recourse to public funds the reality for many is homelessness and destitution. The timing of this through the winter months as we navigate cold weather and ongoing infection risks from Covid-19 is of grave concern.
In Greater Manchester we are proud to accommodate and support individuals with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) as part of A Bed Every Night. This gives people the opportunity to have somewhere safe to stay and receive support to regularise their status and find stable accommodation. We see people often stuck in a system for many years who are not able to work and support themselves and contribute to our economy during these challenging times.
To fully prevent the need to rough sleep we need to bring an end to the hostile environment. It requires a cross departmental review of the No Recourse regime that goes beyond knee-jerk policy decisions driven by the need to reduce contingency accommodation. This only serves to create pressure and cost elsewhere in the system. We as Local Authorities along with our voluntary sector colleagues feel that pressure. The cost to individuals is perhaps immeasurable but certainly significant.
We know that trust is the foundation on which everything else follows. Working with people who have been victimised, trafficked, moved from one end of the country to another as part of an asylum system that has often failed them means building trust can be hard. This is why we will not be complicit in Home Office policies which seek to deport people because they have found themselves destitute and street homeless. It will not eradicate rough sleeping; it will only serve to make extremely vulnerable people more so by pushing them further away from the services and support they so desperately need.
Rough sleeping is not one person’s problem or the responsibility of one service or department. It is a concern for us all, a symptom of a broken system. During our response to Covid-19 we have managed to do things differently, protecting people from rough sleeping and destitution, irrespective of immigration status. The government must not resume evictions for those with a negative decision at a time when the risks of Covid-19 and of rough sleeping and destitution remain.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
Baroness Bev Hughes, Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester
Sir Richard Leese, Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester & Leader of Manchester City Council
Allan Brett, Leader of Rochdale Council
Paul Dennett, Leader of Salford City Council
Sean Fielding, Leader of Oldham Council
David Greenhalgh, Leader of Bolton Council
David Molyneux, Leader of Wigan Council
Eamonn O’Brien, Leader of Bury Council
Brenda Warrington, Leader of Tameside Council
Andrew Western, Leader of Trafford Council
Elise Wilson, Leader of Stockport Council
This statement is also supported by:
Jon Lord, in his capacity as Chair and on behalf of Greater Manchester Housing Providers