Dear John…

John commented on About the Night Shelter

Imagine being in a strange city in a foreign country on a cold winter’s night. You can’t speak the language and you have …

Why dont they go home and instead focus your efforts on those born in this country; not those who moved halfway round the world to be homeless!

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Hi John,

I hope you don’t mind but we’ve taken some time to reply to your short message.

It’s really not that simple for people to make arrangements to return to their country of origin and often there’s various reasons why they can’t. Here are some of the most common ones:

1. They may need some time to realise that they do not have a legal case to stay in the UK. Often the letter saying that they have been refused arrives in the same post as the one telling them they have only 21 days to leave their home and then their NASS benefits will be stopped. Often people find it difficult to make serious decisions about returning to countries they might not have lived in for several years in that short period of time especially when they are worrying about where they are going to stay or how they are going to eat. So probably would you.

2. People need the permission of the Home Office to return to their country of origin. They may have a disputed nationality so the Home Office won’t give them travel documents to return to their country. Or their family back home may have fled their original country and the Home Office won’t allow them to return to that new country. They need somewhere to stay while they work out what to do.

3. On average the Home Office are routinely wrong in 1 in 5 cases according to the number of successful appeals in the AIT. It’s not uncommon for the Home Office to make a mistake in the asylum case and many people have to make multiple applications before they are successful The person may need somewhere to stay while they wait on fresh evidence to show the mistake, or on an advocate to decide whether there are legal grounds to take the case to judicial review.

4. Alternatively the person may have made a mistake themselves at the beginning of their asylum case. Most people do not get any significant legal advice before claiming asylum or before the substantive interview that the Home Office base most of their asylum decisions on. Most people do not understand the process and do not prepare properly for the interview. They often need to get fresh evidence and this can take time before they can make a new application or fresh submission especially if they come from a war torn country.

5. It takes time for the UK’s asylum process to respond to crises and emergencies in other countries so for example the Home Office and the tribunals were saying it was perfectly safe for people to return to Syria for up to a year after the bloody civil war had started. Similarly Home Office Guidance on the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar was only published in November 2017 despite the refugee crisis starting over a year before. Quite often people will be advised by their legal representatives to wait for the courts and tribunals to change their policies on different countries.

These are just some of the reasons why people end up at the night shelter. We operate as a safety net for those men who have serious reasons for not returning to their country of origin but are not allowed to work to support themselves and cannot claim benefits.

Unlike people who are British or European (incidentally that’s not the same as people born here) the men staying at the night shelter cannot access normal homeless services as they cannot claim housing benefit. Being born in the UK does not mean you won’t be blocked from homelss services or getting a national insurance number, by the way, as at least one of your parents has to be British before you can claim British citizenship and get benefits.

This is a serious gap in the existing homeless services and that is why we started the night shelter as there was a significant number of people being forced to sleep rough in Glasgow and excluded from getting support. Over half the people sleeping rough in Glasgow are likely to be foreign migrants who have been stopped from accessing homeless services.

The fact that many people are prepared to sleep rough and turn to charities as their only source of food and clothing only goes to show exactly how difficult it is for some people to return to their country of origin. The men staying at the night shelter have no option but to be there. It is not a soft option – they have no choice. The night shelter is only one step above sleeping rough.

Incidentally most people claiming asylum are already in the UK on another visa – as tourists or students or as workers. Almost all people now make ‘in-county’ applications for asylum i.e. after they have arrived in the UK. What that means is that they are already in the UK for another reason when they decide they cannot return to their country of origin. It is part of the 1951 Geneva Convention that anyone can make an asylum application if they think their have a real risk of persecution in their country of origin.

Research is quite clear that most people come to Britain not because they think they will get the best benefits (in fact benefits are better in some other EU countries) but because they believe (rightly or wrongly) they will get a fair hearing and will be treated justly here. This is the main reason for why many people come to the UK for protection.

I hope this explains why it is not so easy for the men staying at the night shelter to just “go home” John. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and realise that it is not easy to stay at the night shelter and that they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t need to.

All the best

Hope you are never in the same situation.


Glasgow Night Shelter