A refugee is a person who has fled their country of origin and is unable or unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. In the UK, refugees have been granted some form of leave to remain.
An asylum seeker is a person who has fled their country of origin and is seeking international protection. In the UK, an asylum seeker is someone whose claim for asylum has not yet been finally decided on by the Home Office. Not every asylum seeker will ultimately be recognised as a refugee by the Home Office, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.
No. At some stages of the asylum process, people are able to access statutory support.
To refugees and asylum seekers who would otherwise be facing homelessness and/ or destitution. Working with selected partners, we can also offer temporary hosting to survivors of trafficking. In these cases hosting tends to be much more short term as there are other more suitable forms of accommodation for survivors of trafficking.
This varies. All cases are different and sometimes hosting will only be needed for a short period. However unfortunately, for many guests, despite their best efforts, they may need hosting for many months. In our experience many asylum claims can take up to a year to receive a decision. In cases like these, achieving a positive outcome will be a prolonged process, and it is likely that a guest will need multiple hosts.
We only accept a referral for hosting when we are confident that a refugee or asylum seeker is engaged with the process and has the necessary support to make progress towards the next step of their journey. This support will usually come from the referrer – who should also be able to coordinate with any other organizations involved, such as solicitors. Sometimes it will be clear that someone with refugee status will be able to reach the next stage without support from an organization. We will only accept self-referrals from refugees who have a good level of English and the confidence to navigate the system alone and can provide 2 character references.
Many of our guests will have experienced extremely stressful and difficult challenges, which can manifest in mental ill health. We host guests who have or are experiencing depression, PTSD, anxiety and many other complex mental health issues. We always ask how this manifests and how it may affect their daily lives. It is important that our guests are well supported by their referrers and other professionals if appropriate. We will not host someone who has severe mental health issues.
We offer hosting to adults. The majority of our guests are single men. Statistically, more men seek asylum and unfortunately there are fewer support services available for them as they are not considered as priority need. We do not host unaccompanied minors. We will on occasion host a guest who is engaged with challenging an age assessment. This is where the Home Office or the Local Authority have assessed someone as older than they claim to be. We accept their Home Office age but will host if a challenge is in place and only through selected referrers.
We also host women, including pregnant women and women with children. Pregnant women and women with children are entitled to other forms of support and so will only need short term hosting while a referrer helps them to access this. This also applies to families. We are fortunate to be working with our partners Together with Migrant Children who are able to provide specialist advice and casework to guests in these situations.
So far we have hosted guests from over 75 countries. We offer hosting to anyone who fits our guest profile, no matter where they have come to the UK from. Our role is not to judge or make assessments on people’s asylum claims.
Some of our guests will have been in the UK for a long time before they find themselves in need of hosting. People are entitled to statutory support while their asylum claims are being considered – which can often take a long time. In fact for some people, it can take years to have their claim for asylum approved. This means that many guests may have already built up a support network and strong community links in the UK before being hosted. They could have friends nearby that they spend their time with or even family in other parts of the country.
This is something we don’t know and never ask of our guests.
It is extremely important that hosts can support our position that our guests are under absolutely no obligation to share any aspect of their past with anyone, including their hosts. This includes the reason they are seeking asylum in the UK, their journey to the UK, and other personal details about their lives. It is natural to be curious but it is important to understand why guests may not want to share this. In our experience, guests will offer this information to hosts if and when they feel comfortable.
The Home Office is responsible for investigating whether an asylum seeker’s claim is valid, and we never seek to replicate this role. Refugees at Home believe that everyone has the right to seek asylum, and that people don’t leave their home countries for no reason.
Asking questions about their past can be triggering for our guests, many of whom will have fled war and torture. They will have to face a great deal of questioning during the process of claiming asylum, and it can be very distressing to have to relive particular experiences. It is really important that while being hosted, guests can feel relaxed and safe. As a Refugees at Home host, we always encourage you to contact our placement team first in case of any concerns about any aspect of your placement.
This varies. Some of our guests have been street homeless or sofa surfing. Others may have come from statutory accommodation which they have then had to leave, perhaps quite suddenly. Some may have come from another Refugees at Home host. Another charity may have been supporting them, perhaps through hosting, an informal hosting arrangement, or a temporary arrangement such as funding a hotel for them. This is not an exhaustive list but probably includes most of our guests.