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‘Refugees are simply being set up to fail’

Tsvetan Pavlov on Haringey Welcome and the Museum of Homelessness’ new campaign

Rough sleeping in Tottenham High Road (credit Wikicommons)

Local organisations in Haringey are coming together to fight a humanitarian emergency unfolding on the streets of the borough which is impacting some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Haringey Welcome and the Museum of Homelessness have teamed up to try and raise up to £15,000 to help people seeking asylum who have just gained refugee status to secure their first private accommodation and escape completely avoidable homelessness.

The action is a response to the latest twist in the government’s long-running mission to establish a “hostile environment” for migrants and refugees. People seeking asylum seekers living in Home Office accommodation are now granted refugee status, which is swiftly followed by an eviction notice giving them less than a month, and sometimes a matter of days, to find their own private accommodation. Anyone with recent experience of the London rental market can attest to the impossibility of such a task. Refugees are simply being set up to fail. A moment which should be joyful – receiving a positive outcome on an asylum claim, often at the end of years of incredibly traumatic experiences, quickly turns into a nightmare that ends in people hitting the streets.

Young single men are particularly at risk as they often don’t qualify as “priority need” for housing. The hurdles they face are multiple – discrimination in the rental market, no sofa to crash or local support network to help them bridge this treacherous period, and no savings to afford the necessary first rent and deposit payments (having lived on £8 a week for months whilst awaiting a decision on their application and without the right to work).

Haringey Council, faith groups, charities and local grassroots organisers are coming together to work out a plan to address this emergency – from seeking out temporary hosts, through looking for volunteers to provide “buddying” support, to engaging with local landlords to unblock housing supply. The ongoing crowdfunder is aiming to unblock the final step in that process and gather the funds for the upfront payment needed to secure a rental contract. The funds will top up regular support provided by Haringey Council and additional matched funding by the Museum of Homelessness.

The organisers of the crowdfunder see this crisis as manufactured and entirely avoidable. Vulnerable members of our community are being dehumanised and used as pawns in the increasingly cruel political games that have replaced our migration and asylum policies. The generosity of the local community to counter this is already on display with more than £5,000 gathered in a matter of weeks. The organisers are pushing to get to the £15,000 mark to help as many people as possible to avoid the physical and mental health risks associated with street homelessness.

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