The Hosting Project operates entirely on the goodwill and generosity of its hosts. Hosts are members of the public, living in normal domestic housing, who have a strong desire to help destitute and homeless Asylum Seekers and Refugees. They have been vetted by the project and have received some initial induction training. They are not however experts in asylum issues, nor are they likely to have specialist knowledge of mental health, or handling challenging behaviour. Some have children in their homes. For these reasons it is not possible for the Hosting Project to accept all referrals; it is vital in fact that we do not knowingly put hosts or their household members at risk, or place guests with hosts who do not have the skills or knowledge to help them.
We only accept referrals via another agency. In Ipswich these will generally be The Refugee Council (Ipswich), Health Outreach NHS and Suffolk Refugee Support.
We ask that they complete a referral form that provides us with key information about the person, including relevant medical/mental health details. We then arrange to meet with the prospective guest and gather more detailed information and obtain their agreement to share this with their host. All referrals must be approved by nominated members of the Ipswich Town of Sanctuary Hosting Project Executive before they are accepted. Due to the importance of matching the right guest and host, there may be some delay between the initial approval of hosts and the first stay being arranged.
Some stays will be for a matter of days, for example where the guest has a very short-term accommodation need, where a host is only able to offer short stays, or when the guest stays with another host to provide a break for their long-term host.
For longer stays an initial trial week is agreed after which host, guest and the project coordinator meet to discuss how things have gone. Hopefully any difficulties can be resolved at this stage but, if not, then the guest will be asked to leave that day and the Project will try to find other suitable accommodation for them. Guests are made fully aware from the outset that they have no legal rights to stay and that the first week is strictly a trial period.
In order to make longer-term placements more sustainable, the Project seeks to recruit some hosts who are able to provide periodic ‘respite’ by offering to take the guest for occasional short breaks or during hosts’ holidays. In some cases circumstances may dictate that we choose to move a longer-term guest periodically between a small pool of hosts.
Regular reviews will subsequently be held, usually after a further six weeks and then six monthly. Meetings can be arranged sooner however if difficulties arise that cannot be resolved between the host and the guest themselves. Hosts have the right to terminate a stay at any time but it is clearly helpful if the project coordinator can be given as much notice as possible in order to try to find alternative accommodation for the guest – we fully understand that hosting can be very demanding and hosts’ circumstances do change.
Q & A
What is an Asylum Seeker?
An Asylum Seeker is an individual who has been forced to leave their home country due to persecution. When individuals enter the UK they have to claim Asylum and then wait for the decision on their asylum claim to be made by the Home Office. During this process, Asylum Seekers may be housed on a no-choice basis through the UK Border Agency (UKBA) whilst others may remain in Immirgration Removal Centres.
What is a Refused Asylum Seeker?
A refused Asylum Seeker is an individual whose claim has been refused. A refused Asylum Seeker normally appeals or makes a fresh claim and will be homeless with no rights until that claim is processed. At present 30% receive a positive decision once reviewed by an independent tribunal.
Are Hosts breaking the Law by hosting a Refused Asylum Seeker?
No. It is the Home Office’s responsibility to remove those who they believe should not remain in the UK. Our understanding of the legal situation here is that it is an offence to knowingly harbour someone who is on the run having committed a crime, or having escaped from an Immigration Removal Centre. Likewise it would be an offence to deliberately withhold information from an official of the state, if this is requested from you. Hosts should notify the project coordinator of any enquiries they receive from any official source about their guests.
What is a Refugee?
A Refugee is an individual who has claimed asylum and their decision has been successful.
When would an Asylum Seeker need temporary accommodation?
There are dispersal areas across the UK where Asylum Seekers can be temporarily housed. However Asylum Seekers have no choice of where they will be situated. Asylum Seekers can be moved from dispersal area to dispersal area at any time. In these periods when an individual may find themselves having to leave Ipswich (for example) to go to stay in Coventry, the accommodation may not be available on the day of changing destinations (or several days). This is when Asylum Seekers become homeless and need to be hosted temporarily.
Asylum Seekers will also find that they are in need of temporary accommodation if their claim has been refused and they become destitute.
When would a Refugee need temporary accommodation?
When an Asylum Seeker is given the right to remain in the UK they will be granted Refugee Status. Although Refugees are entitled to the same support as UK Nationals, there are periods when individuals will be faced with homelessness. Individuals are generally required to leave UKBA accommodation within 28 days. Sometimes this can be reduced to as little as 7 days to leave the accommodation. With such a short time frame this would be difficult for anyone to find accommodation. This is when a Refugee would need temporary accommodation.