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Yusuf and Jon on a hiking trip before lockdown. Both are smiling and have backpacks.

Clapham resident encourages people to host refugees and asylum seekers

A Clapham resident is encouraging others to host asylum seekers and refugees who need housing after becoming a regular host through a refugee charity.

A few years ago, Jon, 50, started working with Refugees at Home, a charity which places asylum seekers and refugees needing housing with hosts, after wondering what to do with the extra space in his home.

At the end of 2019, the UN Refugee Agency reported that there were  133,094  refugees, 61,968 pending asylum cases  and  161  stateless persons  in the UK.

Jon initially had reservations, particularly as he has two daughters who spend half their time with him and the other half with their mother, but when he told them about the scheme, their reaction was amazingly positive.

He said: “My daughters realise that we’re all people, and just because you’ve had to leave your own country it doesn’t mean you’re dangerous.

“It’s a very positive experience and really not that much work.”

Picture of Yusuf playing monopoly
Yusuf (left) was placed with Jon as part of the hosting scheme. Image Credit: M.Musa

Following this, Jon made the decision to become a regular host for Refugees at Home, which operates nationwide.

Since 2015, Refugees at Home has provided over 157,000 hosted nights.

Who does Refugees at Home help?

Asylum seekers are entitled to accommodation while waiting for the results of their application, but Jon said this doesn’t always happen. 

Refugees at Home also helps those who have received their refugee status, but have not yet saved enough for a deposit or found somewhere to live. 

This can sometimes be caused by the fact that asylum seekers do not have the right to work in the UK while awaiting their application result, and so cannot always afford to immediately move into rented accommodation.

Instead, the Government assigns them £5.39 a day to cover food, clothes and sanitation.

Jon’s first guest Yusuf, 30, who stayed with him for a total of nine months, was referred to Refugees at Home by a homeless charity in Hackney. 

Yusuf had to apply for his refugee status a second time after the government-assigned law firm that was handling his initial application went under. 

Yusuf waited four years to receive his refugee status, and Jon said the day Yusuf’s application for asylum was accepted last year was an emotional one.

Jon said: “You can see that he can now move on with the rest of his life having had this horrific escape from Syria, journeyed to the UK, and then on arrival having four years of a sentence of not being able to do anything.

“For him to have finally got his status meant that he could get on with his life.”

Since gaining his refugee status, Yusuf has started work as a software engineer in the capital.

Picture of Jon and Yusuf in a rural setting. Both are happy and smiling.
Jon and Yusuf. Image Credit: M.Musa

Now, Jon wants to encourage others to give hosting a try. 

According to Refugees at Home, London is home to the highest number of hosted individuals, hosting 1,200 of the 1,700 placements since 2017.

Jon added there is no minimum time you can host for, it could even be for two days.

To find out more about hosting, visit the Refugees at Home website.

Featured Image Credit: M.Musa

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