Nursing leaders are among those who have signed an open letter to the new home secretary, James Cleverly, expressing deep concerns over the government’s asylum policy and its potential impact on healthcare.
The letter, coordinated by homeless healthcare charity Pathway and signed by the Royal College of Nursing and the Queen’s Nursing Institute, called for a reversal of recent changes to Home Office practice affecting refugees granted asylum.
The new system means people are given only seven days’ notice to leave asylum accommodation, the charity said.
The letter stated: ‘These changes are driving refugees into homelessness and destitution, with dire consequences for their health and the health of the population as a whole.’
It added: ‘They will place further serious, avoidable burdens on an NHS already battling winter pressures and ongoing Covid recovery.
‘Exposing people to these avoidable risks, at the coldest time of the year, is ill-advised and will lead to a spiral of poor health and loss of life.’
The letter also draws attention to potential difficulties around general practice and primary care.
It said: ’While those in asylum accommodation may have been registered with a GP, this connection to care will be lost when they move out of the area.
‘With no time to arrange alternative accommodation, they will find it difficult to register with a new practice, breaking their link to this key public service and forcing them to rely on emergency services.’
The signatories – including Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary and chief executive, and Dr Crystal Oldman, QNI chief executive – call for the restoration of the minimum 28-day period before refugees are required to leave their Home Office accommodation.
The letter also urged the government to stop all evictions during very lower temperatures, and to work urgently with primary care and refugee support organisations to develop solutions for access to primary care for evicted refugees.
‘If you do not intend to reverse these changes, could you advise us of your plans to involve NHS providers of emergency services and specialist street outreach services in preparing for the rapid rise in need for emergency care that will result from this practice,’ the letter adds.
Other signatories include Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the Royal College GPs Council, and James Gore, chief executive of the Faculty of Public Health.
A government spokesperson said: ‘Once someone is informed that their asylum claim has been granted, they get at least 28 days’ notice to move on from their asylum accommodation.’
It is understood that where someone is given notice that their asylum claim has been granted, they are informed they have a 28 day ‘move on period’.
However, a separate ‘notice to quit’ or ‘notice to vacate’ letter will be issued to someone to confirm the exact date they will need to leave their accommodation, which is usually at least seven days after the letter is issued.
The government spokesperson added: ‘Support is offered to newly recognised refugees by Migrant Help and their partners, which includes advice on how to access Universal Credit, the labour market and where to get assistance with housing.
‘We work with local authorities to help communities manage the impact of asylum decisions.’