Charity fears many who have been refused refugee status are being left homeless
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
A charity has raised concerns that the number of asylum seekers in Cardiff falling into homelessness is increasing.
An agreement between the Home Office and the Welsh Government which allowed refused asylum seekers to access accommodation was recently lifted.
Oasis Cardiff said it is already seeing an increase in homelessness among asylum seekers who have received negative decisions. This means they have been refused refugee status by the UK Government.
At a Cardiff Council community and adult services scrutiny committee meeting, Oasis Cardiff deputy CEO, Richard Eynon, said: “We are seeing more and more asylum seekers getting negative decisions.
“They are falling into homelessness. I know of 10 cases who are already homeless and are already taking up bed space at the Huggard here in Cardiff.
“It is one [concern] that was on the horizon and I think sadly it has come at the same time as Welsh Government not carrying on the everyone in policy and so there is going to be an ongoing issue I think with negative sensations.”
Asylum seekers who are refused refugee status have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). This means they have no access to welfare benefits and housing.
Council bosses at the meeting, which looked at the authority’s support for refugees and asylum seekers, said there are limitations to what support the council can provide to those with NRPF.
Council officer, Sian Sanders said: “The resolution where someone has no recourse to public funds is to receive further legal advice. It is the only way they can get out of that situation.
“We have put a lot of attention on to that particularly during Covid.
“We helped Asylum Justice to secure additional £50,000-worth of funding to make sure we had extra capacity within the system.
“It is an area that is completely stretched, lots of issues around access to immigration advice at the right quality in Wales in general.
“For us the focus has really been on making sure that legal advice pathway was correct, but there are other things we are able to do to try and bridge that gap and make sure that there is some support available to people in that very difficult situation.”
Council officers also revealed the increased difficulty of housing refugees and asylum seekers who are entitled to accommodation.
Cardiff is currently housing 50% of Wales’ regional share of asylum seekers and is the fourth most common asylum dispersal destination
in the UK.
Council officer Ms Sanders said the council’s main approach in housing refugees is working with private sector landlords. Social housing is not used.
However, there are pressures on other services as well, with regional re-settlement co-ordinator at the council, Tom Dodsworth, calling education and health the other “pinch points”.
Commenting on the asylum seeker system in the UK more generally, Ms Sanders said: “I think we are really reaching that breaking point based on conversations with other councils and the home office recently.
“Certainly I know the home office is working on building up its case capacity to try and fast track and make decisions on the claims that are currently waiting in the system.
“There is a huge backlog. We are extremely reliant on what they call contingency accommodation, which is quite often in the form of hotels at the moment.
“It is not a perfect model. It is not a great start for someone who is looking to start a new life in the UK and seeking sanctuary here.
“We are absolutely committed to looking at solutions with the Home Office.
“I know that other councils at major dispersal areas are part of that conversation with the Home Office over the last year about trying to think what next and how this can really be reformed given that the current model is just not fit for purpose given the scale of the current issue.”
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