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World News

Refugees at risk of homelessness: Top church leaders join call for government change

by Ros Mayfield

Leaders from several Christian denominations and senior figures from other faiths have joined together to call for system changes at the Home Office to reduce the risk of newly approved refugees ending up in a homelessness crisis.

The group of prominent faith leaders includes several senior Bishops in the Church of England as well as other church leaders. 

Co-ordinated by the Bishop of London Rev Dr Sarah Mulally, they've have signed a joint letter to the government over a recent change in processing asylum applications, which they say is causing unnecessary suffering and placing vulnerable people at risk of homelessness.

Refugees who receive notice that their asylum support is ending are required to find alternative accommodation, sometimes within as little as a week.  Many have been in the UK for months or even years, but once they are approved for residency they have a limited amount of time to learn and navigate a series of systems in order to move out and plan their future in the UK. 

Churches and other faith groups are dealing with families in their communities who become urgently in need of support and accommodation, in order to preserve what networks they have managed to build while seeking asylum.

On the one hand is the relief of knowing their long-term residency has been approved; on the other, an eviction notice from their landlord.

The group says the UK can do better. 

The letter, addressed to Baroness Scott, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Social Housing and Faith, and Michael Tomlinson KC MP, Rishi Sunak's new Minister of State for Illegal Migration, asks the government to:

• Work to ensure all refugees have at least 28 days from receiving their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) before they are required to leave their asylum accommodation

• Inform councils and other relevant institutions that refugees can apply for housing and other support as soon as they receive notice of an imminent decision for their asylum claim, and do not have to provide an eviction letter.

It also requests that the eviction notice period be extended to 56 days, to allow newly recognised refugees adequate time to process a Universal Credit application.

Signatories include the bishops of Southwark, Chelmsford, and Rochester; Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster; the leaders of the Coptic and Greek Orthodox churches and the leader of the Persian Anglican community as well as nine junior CofE bishops. 

The Salvation Army, Baptist church, URC and Quaker and Pentecostal churches, along with several Rabbis and representatives from Britain's Sikh, Muslim and Hindu communities have also signed in support.

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