Stories from the frontline: the family of five sleeping in a car

In recent months, Refugee Action’s Asylum Crisis Project has helped an increasing number of families who have been left homeless and destitute after seeking safety in the UK.

One such family recently arrived at our office in a desperate state. The father, after arriving in the UK with his wife and three children, had chosen to support his family with his own savings rather than apply for help from the UK government.

However, after a long wait for a decision on his family’s asylum claim, his money had run out. As asylum seekers, neither he nor his wife were allowed to work. This meant they couldn’t pay their bills, were struggling to feed their children, and their landlord was threatening to evict them and change the locks.

The father decided to ask for help – but the Home Office told him his family were not entitled to support. They advised him that his landlord could not evict his family without a court order, and that they would only be eligible for help once this was presented.

One day, whilst the father was out seeking advice about his situation, the landlord visited his home, told his wife and children to leave and changed the locks. The father returned to find his family, including his two year child, sitting outside on the pavement with nowhere to go.

Still, the Home Office would not support his family. They advised that if the family has left the property “voluntarily” they would receive no help. They also said that if the family had been forcibly evicted, they would have to go to the police before receiving any help.

The police sent the family to Social Services, but they were only able to help them for one night. The next night, the whole family slept on chairs in a local hospital waiting room. Then an acquaintance who lived and worked near their former home took pity on the family and let them sleep in his car.

Luckily, Refugee Action’s Asylum Crisis team were there to help this family. They fought the Home Office’s decision not to support them, and liaised with Social Services to find them emergency accommodation and help.

After repeated refusals and an extensive process of gathering evidence to prove that the family could not support themselves, they were eventually successful. The family were given temporary shelter, and eventually their application for asylum support was accepted.They will soon have a safe place to sleep while they wait for their asylum decision.

A significant part of our Asylum Crisis Project is funded by donations from the public. If you’ve donated to our work in the last year, you’ve helped families like this to escape desperate situations and live with dignity again. Thank you.

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