Indefinite Leave to Remain? #RefugeeWeek2024

Posted on: 19 June 2024

‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’. The most unwelcoming of terms, as institutional as the asylum system that those granted it will have come through. A term that conjures associations far from that of a warm welcome, and certainly far from that of the theme of this year’s Refugee Week: Our Home. Because for the refugees coming to the UK who have successfully claimed asylum here, our home is now their home, though the system we operate and the actions we take as a nation will not always make it feel that way.

Immigration has, unsurprisingly,  been a hot topic of the election thus far. There have been promises of scrapping the Rwanda Scheme or doubling down on it, talks of caps and deportations but the narrative in the debate always misses the point – immigration is a necessary part of our lives. Necessary not only for the functioning of our economy and society, but necessary too because we are signatories of the 1951 Refugee Convention. But what has been less reported through the first part of this election campaign are the vast numbers of refugees – those who have been granted ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ – that are experiencing homelessness.

A biometric residency permit which is a wallet sized ID card

A Biometric Residency Permit that proves an asylum seeker has refugee status in the UK.

Since last summer, the decision by the UK Home Office to fast-track asylum claims whilst amid an ongoing housing crisis has had significant effects. During the last few months of 2023, more than 50,000 asylum claims were processed, five times more than normal for that period. As a consequence, thousands of refugees with positive decisions have been left without anywhere to go, once told to leave the hotels they had been staying in. Nationally, it has led to a 223% increase in rough sleeping amongst refugees. At New Horizon Youth Centre it has fundamentally changed our service as we coped with our busiest ever day in 2024 and unseen levels of demand.

From August – December 2023, 369 new refugees have walked through our doors and most of them had recently been evicted from the National Asylum Accommodation Service hotels. The number of new users really began to peak around December 2023 at which point 61% of all centre users were refugees (up from 17% pre pandemic). Unsurprisingly, the numbers of rough sleepers in the centre accordingly rose to over half, meaning the demands on our Emergency Fund which pays for backpackers and hotels went through the roof as we did our best to keep young people off the streets; we ended up spending £104,000 on emergency hostel beds, rather than the £26,000 we had budgeted.

Man squirting mayonnaise on burger and chips in a takeaway container. You can only see the man's blue shorts and part of his black t-shirt.

Young refugee in our FC Hope Football team enjoying a burger and chips after training.

There are of course many scary statistics circulating about both refugees and homelessness now, but it is important to remember that real people live behind the numbers. Real people like the young man I met over lunch last week who spoke so fondly of his home in South Sudan and so sadly of the political situation there. Or the young woman I had met on Boxing Day at the centre who had been made homeless just before Christmas and had made her way to London from a hotel in Belfast, before navigating the streets for two weeks.

Although they have faced unimaginable challenges both before they arrived in the UK and while they have been here, one thing has united all the young refugees I have met: their desire to just get on with life, use their potential and make here their home, just like it is our home.

I am pleased that New Horizon Youth Centre has been able to play a small part in making that happen for so many refugees this last year and I am so proud of what all the young people have achieved.

Graphic inviting people to our Special Webinar for World Refugee Day

Join our special webinar tomorrow

If you want to find out more about how we have done it together then drop by our World Refugee Day webinar, Our Home, Their Potential this Thursday 20th June to hear from the team and some young people.

Blog by Phil Kerry, Chief Exec of New Horizon Youth Centre

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