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Bishop of Stepney Calls for Extended Accommodation Time for Refugees in London

The Right Reverend Dr. Joanne Grenfell, the Bishop of Stepney, is urging the government to grant refugees more time to secure accommodation in the bustling city of London. 

In a heartfelt plea, she expressed deep concern for the well-being of individuals who have been granted refugee status but find themselves without a place to call home in the capital.

The call for extended accommodation time has resonated throughout the Diocese of London, where churches have united to voice their alarm regarding the growing numbers of newly-recognized refugees experiencing homelessness. They point to a recent change in Home Office practice, which now provides a mere seven days’ notice for refugees to vacate their accommodations.

This abrupt eviction notice leaves many refugees in dire straits, with insufficient time to gather the necessary documentation to find a new place to live, access essential financial support, or secure employment in a city that is already grappling with a severe housing crisis.

Church communities, alongside various faith groups, community organizations, and charities, have been at the forefront of providing assistance to refugees temporarily residing in local hotels while awaiting decisions on their asylum claims. These individuals often endure months, and sometimes even years, of uncertainty as they await a response from the Home Office. During this period, churches play a pivotal role in delivering both practical and emotional support to those who have often fled religious persecution. Many refugees have converted to Christianity and turned to their local church for guidance and solace.

Bishop Joanne, deeply moved by the plight of these individuals, issued a heartfelt statement, saying, “I am appreciative that so many of our churches are showing the love of God through deep care and support for refugees who are navigating the asylum system in our city. I am deeply concerned for the welfare of those who have been granted refugee status and yet find themselves sleeping on our city’s streets. I call upon our government to act with compassion and humanity, allowing refugees in this situation a much more reasonable time to find accommodation and to begin their integration into this country.”

Pattie Gercke, a Refugee & Asylum Development Worker who extends support to church communities across the Diocese of London, expressed her profound concern as well. She lamented the increasing number of newly-recognized refugees facing homelessness and criticized the Home Office’s practice of providing only a seven-day eviction notice. She stated, “It is appalling to see men and women who our church communities have journeyed with through their asylum claims, being told by the Home Office that their claims are valid, but then having to sleep on the street. Seven-day eviction notices provide no time to find anywhere to stay, and this is creating an unnecessary homeless emergency.”

According to the Red Cross, the process of initiating Universal Credit, a crucial financial support system for many refugees, takes a minimum of 35 days to begin. Moreover, local authorities require at least 56 days to provide assistance with securing accommodation. These timelines further underscore the urgency of extending the accommodation period for refugees in London.

The current practice of evicting newly-recognized refugees within seven days, without essential support, is exacerbating the city’s homelessness crisis and needs to be addressed promptly to ensure the welfare and integration of those who have sought refuge in the UK.

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