Non-EEA migrant destitution – time for a practical rethink?

Monday, 11 January 2016 - 3:08pm

Migrant destitution is not inevitable. What could you do to provide the best support for non-EEA migrants facing rough sleeping?

2015 was the year of the so-called “Migrant Crisis” and it shows no sign of abating in 2016. The work of the Strategic Alliance on Migrant Destitution (SAMD) is more important than ever. Despite the political challenges though, inspirational practical work is still taking place across England to provide accommodation to people from outside the EEA who have no recourse to public funds.

I took over leading on this project four months ago and I have been lucky enough to meet lots of organisations responding to the needs of destitute migrants outside of London that are demonstrating real impact in their local communities.

Despite the political challenges though, inspirational practical work is still taking place across England to provide accommodation to people from outside the EEA who have no recourse to public funds.

I want to share these three examples of these bright spots offering very practical responses to non-EEA migrant destitution in England.

  • Hope Housing Projects in Birmingham, which accommodates around 78 individuals who would otherwise be rough sleeping. Their unique service is an inspirational model, offering immigration advice to support people to regularise their stay, while providing accommodation delivered in partnership with local housing associations.
  • Open Door (North East) offers a cross subsidy model of accommodation. The income stream from providing houses for migrants who have regular access to public funds means they can meet the needs of destitute migrants with no recourse.
  • The Boaz Trust in Manchester is dedicated to serving destitute asylum seekers and refugees by providing a combination of accommodation, food, advocacy and legal advice. They provide bed spaces in shared houses, a volunteer run hosting scheme and emergency overnight accommodation in a winter night shelter. This flexible approach to the issue demonstrates that migrant destitution cannot be solved by a one size fits all approach.

So where does the Strategic Alliance fit into this good practice?

The examples above show that provision of accommodation is possible, and it is important that good practice like this can be shared across the country. The job of the Alliance is to make sure that happens.

To date, we have run large events in London, Yorkshire and the North East, bringing more than 130 frontline services together to share best practice and encourage commitments to respond to migrant destitution in England. We are running more of these regional events in Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham in 2016. If you work in one of these regions and are interested in attending one of these free events please get in touch.

Migrant destitution is not an inevitability, and rough sleeping is harmful and dangerous for anyone, regardless of immigration status.

What can my service do to support destitute non-EEA migrants?

  1. Think about how your service provides support for destitute migrants with no recourse to public funds. Are there opportunities to adapt or work in partnership with other services in your area, such as law centres and asylum drop ins, to provide the best service possible to those sleeping rough in your area?
  2. Where possible collect accurate data for your local area and feed your frontline experiences back to your local authority. Demonstrating any positive impact you make will be integral to expanding support.
  3. Think outside the box. If the rules don’t work for the most vulnerable in your community, maybe it’s time to work in partnership with other services in your region to turn innovative ideas into grass-roots solutions.

The year ahead

Throughout 2016 we will focus on developing new approaches to supporting people from outside Europe who become destitute in England. However, we mustn’t overlook a number of upcoming changes that will have a major impact migrant destitution.

Proposals set out in the Immigration Bill - that is currently passing through the House of Lords - include the requirement of landlords to check the immigration status of all private rented tenants in their “Right to Rent” scheme. The government’s decision to push ahead with these proposals following a pilot scheme could negatively affect migrant destitution numbers and there have been concerns regarding discrimination. The Home Office has announced that from 1 February 2016, the Right to Rent scheme will be extended across England.

The proposals also raise alarms about the legality of supporting destitute migrants with no recourse to public funds. Earlier this year one of the funders of the Strategic Alliance, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), sought legal opinion on this issue. The responding legal opinion (available on the SAMD resources page) was clear that “Criminal law does not prevent assistance being given to undocumented people to alleviate destitution or meet basic human needs”.

“Criminal law does not prevent assistance being given to undocumented people to alleviate destitution or meet basic human needs.”

Placing this example alongside the three case studies above demonstrates the need to respond to challenges in service provision with responses grounded in experience and proven success. Migrant destitution is not an inevitability, and rough sleeping is harmful and dangerous for anyone, regardless of immigration status.

We are committed to bringing the migrant and homelessness sectors closer tougher, providing support and guidance so that our collective commitment to migrant destitution stretches beyond just those with access to public funds. Migrant destitution can be tackled through delivering collaborative partnerships between frontline services, and providing clear and demonstrable pathways away from the streets.

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Patrick Duce

Innovation and good practice project manager

Patrick is an Innovation and Good Practice Project Manager, working on a range of innovation projects across the homelessness sector. Previously coordinated the Strategic Alliance on Migrant Destitution (SAMD) project on behalf of Homeless Link.

Telephone: 0207 840 4468
Email: patrick.duce@homelesslink.org.uk
Twitter: @PatrickDuce