Who is a refugee?
According to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, a refugee is someone who, '...owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.'
Refugees who have fled their home country have a right to seek asylum in a new country, but the process to apply for and be granted refugee status can be long and complex.
Here in the UK, an asylum seeker will usually be offered support (accommodation and money) while they wait for a decision on their claim. In 2018, 29,830 people claimed asylum in the UK. During that year, just 32.5% of decisions made led to people being granted refugee status (or another form of leave to remain). (Source: Refugee Council.)
An asylum seeker’s government support ends 21 days after their claim for asylum in the UK is refused.
Asylum seekers are often given the option of appeal but some may not have the financial, emotional or legal capacity for this, despite there often being grounds for appeal. A significant number of decisions are overturned at appeal, but some may go on to be refused again, especially without access to legal support. Refused asylum seekers can be too frightened to return home for fear of death or persecution. Following the withdrawal of housing and benefits after 21 days, many find themselves destitute and homeless.
Should someone be granted refugee status, they are given just 28 days to ‘move on’ from asylum support.
This is a very short amount of time to secure housing, work or benefits – especially for refugees. Refugees are likely to be unfamiliar with navigating the systems and culture in the UK, they may not speak English as a first language and many lack the social networks and experience which many of us rely on to access work and/or education. As a result, many refugees become destitute and homeless despite having had a positive decision on their asylum application.
In order to address this, the Boaz Trust provides safe accommodation and holistic support to refused asylum seekers and refugees who find themselves homeless.