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Making the Wales Nation of Sanctuary Plan a reality for refused asylum seekers

 

In this blog, researchers Heather Petch and Tamsin Stirling discuss findings from their research for the Welsh Government that explores how the the needs of those seeking sanctuary in Wales can be met, an issue that is of critical importance given the uncertainty of what will happen when the UK Government decides the Covid-19 measures of support should come to an end.

In its Nation of Sanctuary Plan, the Welsh Government pledged positive measures to support integration of people seeking sanctuary in Wales and to mitigate destitution. The legislative and policy context for this aspiration is complex, involving policy areas that are devolved and those that are reserved to the UK Government.

Research recently published by the Welsh Government looked at a range of options for providing accommodation to asylum seekers whose claims have been refused. This group of people face destitution as they have no recourse to public funds. People can become destitute at various stages of the asylum process and, in order to find a route out, need to have basic needs such as accommodation, met, as well as access to immigration advice.

No robust data is available to precisely determine the scale of destitution in Wales. However, the Welsh Refugee Coalition suggests that several hundred asylum seekers become destitute annually. The vast majority are single people as most refused asylum seeker families will continue to receive support from the UK Government.

Accommodation plays a critical role for people in this situation, providing a period of stability, safety and security during which they can take steps towards a route out of destitution.

But their accommodation options are extremely limited. Most refused asylum seekers are likely to be hidden, staying with people within refugee communities, but also potentially in exploitative circumstances.

The research looked at accommodation options in place in Wales and developed in other parts of the UK. The options were:

  • informal arrangements
  • hosting within the community
  • shared houses for refused asylum seekers
  • shared houses for both paying residents and refused asylum seekers
  • nightshelters and hostels
  • paying rent for refused asylum seekers to live in a house, hostel or B&B

These options were used as a framework for consultation with a number of service providers and advocates, as well as 30 people who were seeking sanctuary in Wales.

The research also examined current provision beyond informal arrangements in Wales and found it to be limited. Just three organisations are dedicated to accommodating refused asylum seekers: two hosting schemes – ShareDYDD in Cardiff and Share Tawe in Swansea – accommodating between eight and 10 refused asylum seekers – and Home4U accommodating refused asylum seekers (men) in shared housing in Cardiff. There were mixed reports about access to, and suitability of, nightshelters for refused asylum seekers.

The research concluded that it is not possible to identify a specific accommodation model which works elsewhere and replicate it precisely in Wales where the same history, organisations and capacity do not exist. Instead, it recommended investment in partnerships and capacity building drawing on the strengths and commitment of key players operating within the asylum and refugee support field and the housing, homelessness and public sectors, in particular local authorities.

We called for a two-year programme of investment by Welsh Government to enable growth of hosting, the development of shared houses and more consistent access to appropriate emergency accommodation.

There is an increasing sense of urgency around this issue. Refused asylum seekers are currently being accommodated under Covid-19 measures. However, when the UK Government decides that this support should come to an end, there will be significant numbers of people without recourse to public funds, unable to access most forms of accommodation and at risk of ending up on the streets.

A number of organisations, including Shelter Cymru, are calling for the right to adequate housing to be incorporated into Welsh law and we can expect to see such commitments in at least some party manifestos for next year’s Senedd elections. If we are to make this a reality for citizens living in Wales, addressing destitution will be vital. And of course, addressing destitution is part of ending homelessness in Wales, something that the Welsh Government has committed itself to in response to the recommendations of the Homelessness Action Group.

 
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Date: October 13, 2020 9:25 am

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