We support refugees and asylum seekers in Southampton. One particular asylum seeker was advised by the Home Office that she and her family would be rehoused to another city. We helped clean the rented property after they had gone and returned the key to the landlord via the estate agent.
As the family were to be housed temporarily in a hostel by the Home Office until permanent accommodation was found, we gave our home address to the estate agent in case any mail needed forwarding to the family. Big mistake.
First of all, I received a letter from Southampton City Council stating that I was no longer required to pay Council Tax and that our direct debit had been cancelled. The euphoria was short lived when I received an identical envelope from the Council addressed to the asylum seeker at our address.
It took a month of writing letters and phone calls to Southampton City Council to convince them that we had not moved and that the asylum seeking family did not live at our address, indeed they had never even visited our home. It took another month for the Direct Debit to recommence. I asked who had advised them that we had moved. No answer.
Then guess what? Today, I received a letter addressed the the asylum seeker at our address from Southern Water. Here we go again. Was it the estate agent? If so, were they under some kind of legal obligation to notify the local Council and utility providers of the forwarding address for the asylum seeker?
I am now half expecting to receive letters from our telephone, gas and electricity providers addressed to the asylum seeker as well.
And to make matters a little more confusing still, the letters were addressed to the partner of the asylum seeker whom I’ve never met and who has lived and worked abroad for some while.
Photo taken in the Walled Off Hotel, Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine