21 August 2020: In a last minute U-turn, the UK Government has been pressured to extend the ban on evictions of renters that had been planned to end this coming Sunday, 23 August. This means that from September 20th onwards people who rent will no longer have any of the emergency protections, put in place by the UK Government when COVID-19 first emerged in the spring of this year, that banned evictions across England and Wales. Without this protection, the spectre of mass evictions and a further surge in homelessness looms.
Among the millions of people facing severe financial difficulty, hundreds of thousands of renters are reported to now face eviction threats and homelessness. In spite of temporary measures that were introduced to support some, systemic government failures that existed before COVID-19 are leaving people acutely vulnerable.
Without protection, people become at risk of exploitation by unscrupulous landlords. Because of the inhumane policies directed against people who were already in the UK without status and also against those coming to the UK, what former Prime Minister Theresa May coined the ‘hostile environment’, this inhumanity is an experience that was commonplace pre-COVID-19 for undocumented migrants. In 2019, the High Court ruled that the UK Government’s Right to Rent scheme was unlawful, being incompatible with human rights law, yet it still remains in place today.
The long-standing threat of eviction and exploitation is likely to be heightened even more for undocumented members of our society who have been rendered vulnerable from years of systemic neglect by the State. The ban on evictions throughout COVID-19 never applied to them anyway: officially, they don’t appear in any housing statistics. Unprecedented levels of homelessness are inevitable unless the ban on evictions continues and affordable housing stock becomes available to ordinary people – including everybody who is currently undocumented.
Some people seeking asylum who – pre COVID-19 – were compelled to report regularly to the Home Office while they waited for their immigration status to be resolved, have recently been given status. With COVID-19, the 28-day move-on for such people was frozen so they could stay where they were living [pdf], but this week the Refugee Council has reported to a third sector COVID-19 immigration policy email group that issuing of 28-day eviction letters is resuming very soon.
Furthermore, in several parts of the country, people who have escaped extremely traumatic circumstances as refugees are expressing deep concern and anxiety about the prospect of reporting, detention and deportations resuming as if there is no crisis caused by a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus – SARS-COV-2. The World Health Organisation has stressed repeatedly that this virus will be with us for the foreseeable future and thus Governments need to implement measures that protect everyones’ lives and livelihoods from this virus and crisis.
There are many reasons to grant Status Now For All: securing access to safe housing and abandoning reporting, detention and deportation processes are necessary steps on the road towards health and safety for everyone in our society.
No one is safe until everyone is safe!
You can write to your MP about this