Volunteers in Bristol sought to host asylum seekers in homes

Image caption,
The council has housed a number of asylum seekers in hotels but this arrangement is ending

People in Bristol have been urged to host asylum seekers in their homes to prevent them living on the streets.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, the city council has housed a number of them in hotels across Bristol but the arrangement was due to end shortly.

Bristol Hospitality Network (BHN) has asked for 20 volunteers who could offer a spare room for three months or more.

Mayor Marvin Rees backed the scheme and said Bristol should be a place "where everyone feels welcome and safe".

BHN said usually asylum seekers would be given accommodation at an 11-bed men's hostel or one of a network of hosts but the hostel was full and hosts were "at capacity",

The charity said many asylum seekers had come from as far as Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Afghanistan, and would have "lost a lot on their journey to safety".

'Vital support'

Director Lizzie Briggs said the charity estimated about 100 refused asylum seekers were in Bristol at any one time.

She said: "This isn't just a Bristol problem and every city will be taking its own approach to dealing with it.

"Asylum seekers are evicted from Home Office accommodation 21 days after being refused, becoming homeless in that same city. So wherever there is Home Office accommodation for asylum seekers, there are refused asylum seekers made destitute, sofa-surfing or street homeless.

"Bristol is a city of sanctuary, with a strong refugee and asylum seeker sector working closely with both Bristol City Council and the local community to find short, medium and long-term solutions for this hidden and destitute population.

"By hosting an asylum seeker, you are offering vital support at a crucial turning point in someone's life; someone who has already been through immense trauma to get here."

The charity, which has provided asylum seekers with food and money, said those in need would have no recourse to public funds, social housing, no right to rent privately and no permission to work.

Ms Briggs said: "This is our chance to show our solidarity as a city and prevent people from returning to the streets."

Image caption,
Sarah and Peter hosted a male asylum seeker in his twenties from Iraq for two years

BHN volunteers Sarah and Peter hosted a male asylum seeker in his twenties from Iraq for two years.

Peter said: "I felt really proud that were able to offer him something that made an immense difference to his life.

"And I hope that if I was in that amount of need, someone would reach a hand out to me."

Sarah added: "That's all he wanted - a spare room and security. He didn't want anything else from us.

"I recommend it to anyone who has a spare room to show a bit of compassion and humanity."

Mr Rees said: "We have a great opportunity to make sure that no-one has to return to the streets following the Covid-19 crisis, and that includes people seeking asylum in our city."

The UK has a legal responsibility to settle anyone claiming political asylum while their cases are assessed.​

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