Churches are taking on “Tommy Robinson types” to help house refugees facing threats for complaining about sub-standard accommodation.
Church of England Refugee Welcome Coordinator Nadine Daniel said the Commons Home Affairs select committee report condemning housing for asylum seekers came as no surprise.
“There’s an attitude of not really seeing the human being. Once you get talking to the Border Agency, they are still very much the hostile environment,” said Daniel.
The same, she said, was true of the private-housing providers with national staff committed to the cause, but too many local managers disdainful of the struggles that asylum-seekers have.
Daniel said he knew of refugees who had been threatened with being moved unilaterally to a new city, hundreds of miles from their friends and support network, after complaining about the poor quality of their housing – so churches were stepping up.
“A lot of good work is being done under the radar by individual churches in the teeth of really fierce opposition from local government and Tommy Robinson types,” she said.
Examples include parishes procuring free English lessons for refugees and other providing practical assistance in the lengthy process of claiming asylum.
Several dioceses have set up projects whereby clergy with spare rooms in their vicarages and rectories can offer them for free to asylum-seekers to get over the rent ban.
Daniel said she was now working on national guidelines and resources so that dioceses and parishes who want to get involved will know where to go for help.
The parliamentary report specifically criticised the Home Office for failing to address issues around housing stock available to asylum seekers and related degrading living conditions.