Asylum Welcome has recently signed two important letters addressed to national and local authorities urging them to commit to providing ongoing shelter and support to all those experiencing or at risk of homelessness during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, and to do so regardless of immigration status. We are also publicly calling on the government to end the ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) regime, which exposes many people living in the UK to destitution, including rough sleeping.

Asylum Welcome, in partnership and solidarity with a plethora of local and national refugee organisations, has signed an open letter to local authorities urging them not to evict homeless people with NRPF from accommodation provided through the Covid-19 homelessness response and asking them to call publicly for an end to NRPF.

Nobody should be forced to sleep rough, regardless of their immigration status. Nobody should be forced to leave the country they call ‘home’.

In light of the above, we are asking your local authority to take the following steps:

  1. Commit to continuing to support everybody who is, or is at risk of, sleeping rough, and to do so regardless of immigration status.
  2. Urgently and publicly advocate to central government for the removal of all NRPF restrictions, including those that apply to undocumented migrants and EEA citizens without a qualifying right to reside, to ensure that everyone can access shelter and meet their basic needs during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
  3. Provide assurances that homeless people’s data will never be shared with the Home Office without their informed consent and that nobody will be offered ‘voluntary return’ or ‘reconnection’ to their country of origin as a ‘single service offer’.

Asylum Welcome together with British Red Cross also wrote to the Minister for Local Government and Homelessness, Luke Hall, MP to all local authorities in England on 28 May 2020 regarding the next phase of support for rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of the next steps plan that Oxford City Council have been asked to put in place, we request a commitment that this plan will be developed and delivered in partnership with local agencies, and that it supports people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) you are currently accommodating under public health powers, to find sustainable housing options as the government relaxes its lockdown measures.

We are now looking to Oxford City Council to lead the way with an effective next steps strategy for people with NRPF, and to include this in the action plan. Specifically, we ask that the plan:

  1. Works in partnership with relevant local actors to ensure that everyone receives relevant independent advice and support to secure suitable longer-term accommodation and sustainable outcomes.
  2. Upholds the best interests of people who are medically shielding and enables them to remain in local authority accommodation.
  3. Ensures that no-one is evicted without a move-on option and provides people with NRPF as much reasonable notice as possible (at least 12 weeks) to vacate local authority accommodation.