The Tories have announced this month that, starting from January, they will begin cancelling contracts with the 400 hotels that house some 50,000 of Britain’s asylum-seekers.
The government is more than happy to draw a line under this £8 million-a-day scheme, all while pretending that this money and these hotel rooms will be put to use to remedy Britain’s deepening homelessness crisis.
In reality, this money will be used in the interests of the bosses alone, while thousands, regardless of their status, will continue to be forced into slum conditions and onto the streets.
Already, the Home Office has started rushing asylum seekers off their books by slashing the notice period in which someone is expected to find their own private accommodation once they are granted refugee status from 28 days to 7.
For others, they may face a stay on the government supply of disused military bases, or the infamous Bibby Stockholm barge, which is now back in use following a legionella outbreak in August.
Others still will end up facing homelessness themselves. Some 4,000 Ukrainian refugees are already registered as such with their local councils, for example, after the cracks started to show in the Tories’ hasty Homes for Ukraine scheme.
The humanitarian crisis that the Tories have prepared is not isolated to the barbaric conditions that asylum-seekers live in. In the last year alone, homelessness has risen by 6.8% in the UK across the board, while rough sleeping has risen by 30.4%.
All this from the country that former Home Secretary Priti Patel once described as a “humanitarian nation”!
Desperate to divert attention away from the real causes behind the UK housing crisis, the Tories have doubled down on their divide and rule tactics.
The establishment has spent years scapegoating refugees for all manner of social ills, whipping up hysteria and fury through the media, with the question of housing only the latest in a long list.
Refugees who do receive housing are most often relocated to deprived areas, where the housing stock can be bought up on the cheap. This provides the perfect environment for a culture war to break out between locals and migrants.
The dangerous consequences of this can be seen from the events in Merseyside and Llanelli over the last year, where the far right capitalised on the groundwork laid by the Tories’ hostile environment to spread their poisonous ideas, encouraging people to target and attack asylum accommodation.
In both cases, no one was harmed, and counter-protestors mobilised to protect the asylum-seekers. But simply fighting back against these reactionary movements as and when they arise will never eradicate them entirely, or bring us any closer to ending the migrant crisis or homelessness.
The truth is that homelessness is a product of capitalism. Across the world, millions are displaced by war, poverty, and climate crisis. In Britain, the sharpening housing crisis puts secure housing out of the reaches of most.
There are already plenty of empty homes that could easily and immediately be used to house everyone who needs a roof over their head – if only the profits of the landlords and speculators that hoard these properties weren’t the priority.
Instead, while more than 680,000 homes sit vacant, hundreds of thousands of people are left to live on the street.
We must make it clear that this is the real division in society. It is not a battle between different vulnerable groups, such as refugees and the homeless, but between the haves and the have-nots.
The reality is that neither the migrant crisis nor homelessness can be solved under capitalism. This chaotic, profit-hungry system is responsible for creating the conditions for both.
In truth, there is no dichotomy between the needs of asylum-seekers and those of working-class communities. We have the wealth and resources in society to provide decent housing, jobs, and services to everyone.
But to achieve this, and solve these crises once and for all, we must overthrow capitalism and fight for a socialist planned economy, through united class struggle against the real enemy: the bosses and their system.