United Kingdom

Country Report: Housing Last updated: 30/05/23


Refugee Council Visit Website

The reception centres are designed for short term support, almost all residents will move to ‘dispersal accommodation’ in self contained houses or apartments. This is known as ‘Section 95’ support (see Reception Conditions: Criteria and Restrictions).

On receipt of a decision to grant asylum or leave that would entitle the individual to work, apply for state welfare benefits and rent, buy or take on a public housing tenancy, that individual and their dependants will only receive Home Office accommodation and funding for a maximum of 28 days. This is often termed the ‘move on period’. This is regardless of whether or not any alternative source of income and accommodation has been secured. In practice few refugees find alternative accommodation within this time. The main obstacles they face are the processing times for welfare benefits, the lack of a bank account or online credit history. Public housing is restricted to those with children or who are considered a priority because of ill health or disability and those whose illness is mental rather than physical face particular difficulties. The latter category often finds difficulty persuading the authorities to provide them with public housing. The Refugee Council has written a guide to making and pursuing these applications,[1] as well as translated guides to opening a bank account.[2]

This is in stark contrast to those who arrive in the UK as refugees under resettlement programmes.. Although individuals will have to open a bank account, sign a tenancy for housing and make a claim for welfare benefits on arrival, support is usually available to assist with this and a small monetary amount is given by the Home Office to ensure that people have some funds on which to live when they first arrive. The Refugee Council has written a policy briefing on this issue. [3]

The British Red Cross produced a cost benefit analysis of the 28 day ‘move-on’ period in February 2020, arguing that the UK government could save significant amounts of money including the cost of temporary accommodation, if the 28 days was doubled to 56. [4]

Despite a wealth of evidence, and efforts through parliamentary means to extend the period,[5] the issue continues to affect many new refugees and other beneficiaries of leave, resulting in homelessness and destitution.[6] The reasons for this are outlined in the research; it is acknowledged that many refugees may not be aware that claims for welfare benefits usually take weeks to process and may not apply as soon as they are eligible, but recent reports show that in many cases the people advising them, employed by the department that processes claims, to advise that refugees are not able to make welfare benefits applications whilst still receiving asylum support. Similar incorrect advice was found to be given regarding eligibility for an advance payment to cover any gap in support. Additional barriers exist for refugees who have not opened a bank account; unable to do this without a regular income, they then face additional delays in welfare benefits payments which are usually made directly into a claimant’s bank account.

Unless eligible for public housing, refugees’ access to the private rental sector is impeded in practice because of the lack of funds; a refugee will not have been eligible for asylum support payments if s/he has savings but will need a lump sum in order to pay a deposit. Without specific schemes such as one operated by the Refugee Council in London, refugees are reliant on family, friends, refugee hosting schemes or members of their community to avoid street homelessness.




[1]  Refugee Council, Making homelessness applications for refugees in England, Refugee Council, March  2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2U9CYu9.

[2] See the English guide at: https://bit.ly/3i7fDYh; there are  also five translated guides available.

[3]  Refugee Council, Policy briefing: Support for refugees in England, December 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/38oSTsT.

[4] British Red Cross; The cost of destitution, February 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/2VIwCmx

[5] Refugee Council, Briefing on Asylum Support amendments to the Immigration Bill, February 2015, available at: http://bit.ly/2k2u1QU.

[6]British Red Cross, Still an ordeal, December 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2APRYCW; Refugee Council, Refugees without refuge: Findings from a survey of newly recognised refugees, September 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2wNIdEz; England’s Forgotten Refugees, May 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/1U4c3VH; 28 Days Later; the experience of new refugees in the UK, 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/1CgV1gE; British Red Cross, The move on period: an ordeal for new refugees, 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/1sHreYP.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection