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Photo Credit: Jonathan Brady/ PA Wire/ PA Images
Photo Credit: Jonathan Brady/ PA Wire/ PA Images
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World News

Churches must 'ask their councils' how they can help refugees, as Home Office policy sees asylum homelessness soar

by Will Hobbs

The number of refugees sleeping rough on London's streets has mulitplied by 8 in two months, following a change in Home Office policy.

Between July and September the number of people recently granted asylum sleeping on the capital's strets rose from 11 to 102.

The Red Cross estimates that without extra support, 50,000 refugees could be at risk of homelessness across the UK.

Once a person has their refugee status accepted, they are normally given 28 days to leave their state-provided accommodation.

But according to Sky News evidence suggests many refugees are getting much less than 28 days, sometimes as little as a week, forcing them into homelessness.

Before August, the 28-day period began when a refugee received their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), necessary for them to access Universal Credit and other benefits.

However, in the summer, the Home Office changed course, instead starting to count down from the day a refugee was granted asylum. 

Since the BRP and other documents can sometimes take weeks to arrive, the time for some to find residence may have almost run out, leaving no time to find suitable accommodation.

Rev Steve Tinning is a minister at Leigh Road Baptist Church in Essex, which housed a refugee family through a safe route. 

As homeless people become the responsibility of their respective local council, Tinning beleives the policy is part of a strategy from the government to reduce safe routes for refugees, in a way that Tinning sends is contrary to the heart of the gospel.  

"So you've got this policy that's causing tremendous homelessness amongst refugees. And at the same time, the government says, 'so what capacity Have you got to receive more?' Inevitably, the answer is none. We haven't got any capacity. You're not resourcing us with enough.

"And so they are going to have to report back to the government, we haven't got capacity. And then the government intends to use those pledges or lack of pledges to put really low caps on safe routes for refugees.

"And that is why, for me, I'm very concerned about this, this whole story coming together, it flies in the face of the of the approach to policy that we should be having as Christians, and who who hold this value of the Kingdom of God and what it should look like and how it should be compassionate to those in need."

Tinning says he became genuinely engaged in the issues of asylum seekers when his church housed a refugee family.

He urges Christians to get personally in and amongst individual refugees. 

"In order to fully understand you have to be in the company of people for whom this is an issue. That is what the incarnation is about God relating to us by coming and being amongst us.

"So let us reach out to those that we are trying to understand. So I would reach out to your local council.

"What can we do to help? How can we be friends, local asylum seekers and refugees? And what can our church do to contribute towards finding ways to make our area of places of sanctuary?"

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