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Hundreds of refugees sleeping rough in London amid ‘dramatic spike’ in homelessness

  • April 8, 2024
  • 2 min read
Hundreds of refugees sleeping rough in London amid ‘dramatic spike’ in homelessness

Hundreds of refugees are sleeping rough in the capital after leaving Home Office hotels, according to new research from London Councils. A survey organised by the cross-party group found 311 refugees were forced to sleep rough after eviction from Home Office accommodation in January 2024. This marks an increase of 234% compared to September 2023, when London Councils began its survey work and found 93 sleeping on the streets of the capital.

In total, 1,087 refugees approached London homelessness services for help in January following Home Office evictions, a rise of 78% in the four months since September. This includes those rough sleeping but also those who were ‘hidden homeless’ – for example, sleeping on the floor of someone still accommodated in a Home Office hotel, or in a church, or elsewhere off the streets.

The data shows that when London’s severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) was activated in response to temperatures plummeting in January, 242 (20%) of the 1,284 rough sleepers placed in emergency accommodation were refugees previously housed by the Home Office. SWEP is triggered when weather conditions pose a threat to life.

London Councils, which represents all 32 boroughs and the City of London Corporation, anticipates rough sleeping among refugees will continue to increase as the government ramps up the number of asylum decisions it makes and reduces its use of hotels.

The group’s survey suggests the vast majority of those rough sleeping after leaving Home Office accommodation have received a positive asylum decision – over 90%. Once a decision is made and a Biometric Residence Permit card has been issued, refugees have 28 days to leave Home Office accommodation. Boroughs say this is insufficient time for refugees to find work and housing – especially since many have experienced trauma and face language barriers.

Recent government data revealed spiralling levels of all rough sleeping across London, with last year seeing a 32% jump in the number of people sleeping rough in the capital. Rough sleeping has gone up across England but London is experiencing the largest increase.  

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