24 May 2023

People seeking sanctuary excluded from vital housing safety regulation

Over one hundred and thirty organisations have signed a letter to the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman MP, and to the levelling-up secretary, Michael Gove MP, voicing their extreme concerns about regulations currently being considered by Parliament to remove licensing requirements for asylum accommodation.

The open letter co-authored by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL) and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) amassed 137 signatories, including Crisis, Shelter, the Refugee Council and Amnesty International.

It calls for Ministers to abandon plans that would see asylum-seekers housed in unsafe accommodation with inadequate protections against fire and overcrowding.

Gavin Smart, chief executive at Chartered Institute of Housing stated:

“The licensing scheme for houses that are multi-occupied are designed to keep people safe, especially safe from fire. They need to apply to everyone, including people seeking sanctuary in the UK. That’s why we’re calling on the government to drop its proposal to exempt asylum accommodation from the HMO licencing arrangements.”

The letter notes that the strain on the asylum accommodation system is due to excessive delays in asylum decision-making and the fact that those seeking asylum are not allowed to work. The letter urges the Home Office to address these problems rather than deny people seeking sanctuary the basic accommodation rights that should be afforded to all tenants.

Mary Atkinson at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said:

"This government is essentially proposing a two-tier system of housing, with fundamental human rights for people born here but not for those who come here seeking safety. This is outrageous. Everyone deserves a home that is decent and safe – by stripping away these protections for people seeking sanctuary, this Government is putting people’s lives at risk. It must instead act to quickly and fairly process asylum claims, and make sure local authorities are properly resourced to provide safe housing for all who need it.”

The letter asks government to redouble efforts to ensure that asylum accommodation is safe, healthy and secure, rather than removing HMO licensing requirements. The letter was sent with a further, detailed briefing document for all MPs to consider.

Nick Beales, head of campaigning, at Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (Ramfel) commented:

“Whilst appalling under any circumstances, the government appears to have made this decision following lobbying by private companies whose motivation is solely profit driven. Rather than prioritising increased profits for these companies, the government should be focused on ensuring that housing provided to asylum seekers is safe, sanitary and allows them to best settle into their local communities.

“If the government was truly committed to reducing the numbers of refugees in asylum support accommodation, their focus would be on processing claims, granting people leave to remain and allowing them to work whilst decisions on their claims are made. Instead, this is more vicious cruelty that puts vulnerable peoples’ lives at risk.

“We call on the government to reverse these punitive changes and guarantee basic housing standards for all UK residents.”

List of organisations that signed the letter (a-z)
  • ACAP (Ashton Churches Asylum Project)

  • Action Foundation

  • African Rainbow Family

  • Amnesty International UK

  • Anthony Gold Solicitors LLP

  • ASSIST Sheffield

  • Asylum Link Merseyside

  • Asylum Matters

  • Asylum Support Appeals Project

  • Asylum Welcome

  • Aylesbury Women's Aid

  • Bail for Immigration Detainees

  • BIRCH (Birmingham Community Hosting)

  • Birmingham City of Sanctuary

  • Birmingham Progressive Synagogue

  • Birmingham Schools of Sanctuary

  • Black Equity Organisation

  • Boaz Trust

  • Brighton & Hove Housing Coalition

  • Bristol Hospitality Network

  • Bristol Law Centre

  • Bristol Refugee Rights

  • Calais Action

  • Calderdale Valley of Sanctuary

  • Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign


  • Central England Law Centre

  • City of Sanctuary Sheffield

  • City of Sanctuary UK

  • Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre


  • Crisis

  • Darlington Assistance for Refugees

  • Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity

  • Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support

  • Disrupt Foundation

  • Doctors of the world

  • Farnham help for refugees

  • Father Hudson's Care

  • For Refugees Birminghan

  • forRefugees

  • Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group

  • Generation Rent

  • Greater Manchester Law Centre

  • Groundswell

  • Hackney Migrant Centre

  • Hackney Migrant Centre

  • Hansen Palomares

  • Haringey Migrant Support Centre

  • Haringey Welcome

  • Hastings Community of Sanctuary

  • Hastings Supports Refugees

  • Helen Bamber Foundation

  • Herts for Refugees

  • HOPE not hate

  • Hope Projects

  • Housing Law Practitioners' Association

  • Jesuit Refugee Service UK

  • Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

  • Kairos Housing

  • King's College Legal Clinic

  • Law Centres Network

  • Law for Life

  • Leeds Destitute Asylum-Seekers Support

  • Leicester City of Sanctuary

  • Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network (LRMN)

  • Maternity Action

  • Medact

  • Micro Rainbow CIC

  • Migrant Champions Network

  • Migrant Democracy Project

  • Migrants Organise

  • Migrants' Rights Network

  • MigrationWork CIC

  • MTVH Migration Foundation


  • Olmec

  • One and All Aid
  • One Roof Leicester

  • Osbornes Law

  • Our Second Home

  • Paul Quinn writing and editing


  • Phone Credit for Refugees

  • Praxis

  • Project 17

  • Public Interest Law Centre

  • Public Law Project

  • RefuAid

  • Refugee Action

  • Refugee Aid Network
  • Refugee and Migrant Centre (West Midlands)

  • Refugee Asylum Seeker Migrant Action (RAMA)

  • Refugee Biriyani & Bananas

  • Refugee Council

  • Refugee Support Group Berkshire

  • Refugee Welcome Homes

  • Refugee Women Connect

  • Refugees & Mentors CIC

  • Refugees in Effective and Active Partnership (REAP)

  • Restore - a project of Birmingham Churches Together

  • Rethink Rebuild

  • Reunite Families UK

  • Rochdale Action with Destitute Asylum seekers and Refugees

  • Shelter

  • Shola Adebayo

  • Side by Side Refugees

  • South West London Law Centres

  • Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers

  • Southwark Day Centre for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

  • Southwark Law Centre, Housing team

  • St Albans for Refugees

  • St Chad's Sanctuary

  • St. Augustine's Centre

  • Stories of Hope and Home

  • Student Action for Refugees (STAR)

  • Sue Lukes

  • The Care Rights Project

  • The Magpie Project

  • The Refugee Buddy Project

  • The William Gomes Podcast

  • Thousand 4 £1000

  • Thousand for £1000

  • Trust for London

  • Turpin Miller LLP

  • Ubuntu Women Shelter

  • Upbeat Communities

  • Voices in Exile

  • West End Refugee Service

  • West London Welcome

  • West Yorkshire Destitute Asylum Network (WYDAN)
  • Wolverhampton City of Sanctuary

  • Women for Refugee Women

  • Women's Aid

  • Young Roots

  • Youth Legal

Copy of the joint letter

A copy of the joint letter regarding changes to housing regulations for people seeking asylum can be downloaded and read in full.

Safe homes for all - Briefing for MPs and Peers

Along with our letter JCWI, RAMFEL, Crisis, Shelter and CIH have prepared a briefing for MPs and Peers discussing our key concerns about the proposal to scrap HMO regulation for asylum accommodation.

Read the joint briefing