The week of 18th-26th October 2021 was a week of action to stop the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill (aka the Anti-Refugee Bill).

So, we thought it would be fitting to make this week’s blog about all the people we support who are within the asylum process.


The journey to safety

Many of the people who visit our Beacon support centre don’t have what’s known as ‘settled status’ in the UK. That means the government has determined that they don’t have the right to live, work, and remain indefinitely here, free of immigration control. Of course, this makes it very difficult for them to live independently.

People have come to the UK for many reasons, often in moments of crisis – fleeing persecution or war. And when they arrive, they find that they have no family or friends to rely upon, they’re unable to work, and they have no recourse to public funds (NRPF).

With no way to access any form of financial support from the government or council, and no access to council accommodation, it’s little wonder why many refugees are left unsure of their next steps.


The challenges faced

With so few options available, the only thing that many refugees can do is apply for Section 4 support. In Manchester, there are just a handful of beds for people who have NRPF – and the demand far outstrips the limited supply. Most of these beds require the individual to have Section 4 or to be in the process of applying for it.

Section 4 support gives those applying for asylum some help while they wait for a decision, including basic accommodation and financial support. But it’s yet another application process to work through and is in no way a long-term fix. Once a decision has been made regarding a person’s status to remain in the UK, they have just 28 days to leave their temporary accommodation.

The resources available to people with NRPF have become even more stretched in the past year. Now, many people from the EU find themselves in this situation – roughly doubling the number that need the very limited support available. The result? Many refugees become homeless, which, as fellow Manchester-based charity Refugee Action puts it, “is a huge upheaval and causes many complex ongoing issues”.


The situation for many

One of our friends, James*, is a refugee from his home country, which is currently a war zone. He has NRPF and has been waiting for a decision on his status for 10 years. When he came to us in 2020, he was rough sleeping, suffering from PTSD, and using the synthetic cannabinoid known as spice.

Together with Refugee Action, we were able to apply for Section 4 support on James’ behalf. While we waited on the decision, he was lucky enough to be put up in a really nice centre for people with NRPF in the city. With a more stable roof over his head, he was even able to stop using drugs and connect with a mental health worker.


The outcome for some

James’ Section 4 was eventually approved. However, this placed him in accommodation outside of Greater Manchester. James loved Manchester and had come to view it as his home. He had friends here, and he’d managed to build a support network that he could turn to in moments of crisis – something that so many refugees do not have.

When someone receives Section 4 asylum support, they’re only told where their accommodation will be 24 hours before the move. This is naturally very disruptive and often upsetting.

Away from his support network, GP, friends and the services he trusts (including the NHS care that he was receiving for his PTSD), James suddenly found himself uprooted once more. Thankfully, we were able to speak with James before he left and give him the details of support organisations in the town he was moving to.


How can we help?

James is still waiting on the result of his asylum application but is doing well. He’s recovering from his addiction and is not using, and he’s still working through his PTSD with the NHS. What’s more, he remains in contact with us and his support network in Manchester.

But James’ story isn’t the only one. With no recourse to public funds, no family or friends, and no ability to legally work or even to legally volunteer, it is a struggle for our refugee friends to not end up on the streets. Once there, they face the same dangers, fears, and physical and psychological damage as all those we see rough sleeping.

The mission to end homelessness is intertwined with the mission to help refugees build safe, happy lives in the UK. To find out more about the work that Refugee Action does, click here. And to help our cause, check out the ‘Support us’ pages at the top of our website.

*Name has been changed to protect our friend’s identity