This viral image on immigration and homelessness has a fundamental flaw

2 August 2019
What was claimed

The Conservatives have found homes for the 8.8 million immigrants, illegal immigrants, and asylum seekers living here.

Our verdict

The UN estimates that there were 8.8 million people in the UK in 2017 who were not born here, but that doesn’t mean the government has found homes for them.

What was claimed

There are 350,000 homeless British people.

Our verdict

The charity Shelter calculated that an estimated 320,000 people in Great Britain were homeless at the start of 2018. We don’t know what proportion were UK citizens but they certainly weren’t all British.

An image making claims about the number of immigrants, illegal immigrants, asylum seekers and homeless people in the UK has been shared over 14,000 times on Facebook.

“Tories have found homes for over 8.8 million immigrants, illegals & asylum seekers, while ignoring the 350,000 British homeless”.

Facebook user

In 2017 an estimated 8.8 million people in the UK population were not born in the country. But that doesn’t mean the government has “found homes” for all those people.

Many of these people will own homes, rent privately or won’t have had financial support from the government in finding homes.

There were an estimated 320,000 homeless people in Great Britain at the start of 2018, but they definitely weren’t all British citizens as the post implies. Data on homelessness is imprecise, and that figure is likely to be an underestimate.

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The UN estimated the size of the UK’s foreign-born population in 2017 was 8.8 million

There are two possible ways of measuring the size of the UK’s foreign-born population.

The UN reports that the UK’s foreign-born population was estimated to be 8.8 million in 2017. The UN uses census data as well as things like surveys and population registers to put together these figures. We don’t know about the nationalities of these people, or how many are refugees.

Meanwhile the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports that in 2018 the non-UK born population was 9.3 million. Being born abroad is different from citizenship status: according to the same data, the UK population of people who are not British citizens was 6.1 million. That data comes from the ONS’ annual population survey.

The ONS and UN figures differ because they use different sources and methodologies to come to their final number. We’ve talked more about the difference between the ONS data and UN data here.

The government didn’t “find homes” for all of them

The idea that the government has “found homes” for the UK’s entire immigrant population is without any foundation.

According to research from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, in 2017, 42% of the foreign-born population owned their home, while 41% were private renters. (Compared to the UK-born population, they are more likely to rent privately and less likely to be home owners.)

Those who were born abroad have similar rates of participation in social housing as the UK population, at 17% (compared to 16% for UK-born.)

People who have requested asylum are able to get housing assistance while their asylum claim is being assessed if they are destitute. There were just under 32,000 asylum applications made in the year to March 2019.

People in the UK illegally are not eligible for government assistance with housing.

320,000 is a realistic figure for the number of homeless people in Great Britain, but it includes people who aren’t from the UK

Housing charity Shelter estimated that there were at least 320,000 homeless people in Great Britain at the start of 2018. We’ve talked about this number several times before. Shelter used official homeless statistics for England, Scotland and Wales, submitted FOIs to councils and used the charity Homeless Link’s research on the number of homeless hostel spaces.

Shelter’s definition of homelessness included people in temporary accommodation (including places arranged by children’s services), single people in homeless hostels and those sleeping rough. People in temporary accommodation are estimated to account for around 300,000 of the total.

Shelter said 320,000 is likely an underestimate, and as we’ve said before, we think that’s probably fair.

No one knows exactly how many homeless people are not UK nationals

Homelessness charity Crisis said in a 2018 report that migrants “clearly make up a significant proportion of the rough sleeping and wider homeless population across Britain, but there are significant gaps in data that are collected or published.”

A single night snapshot count of the number of rough sleepers in England during the autumn of 2018 found that about 64% were UK nationals (the nationality of 10% was not known).

The data for rough sleepers is more detailed in London. CHAIN (Combined Homelessness and Information Network) is a database recording the number of people found sleeping rough by outreach teams in London. Of those seen rough sleeping in Greater London in 2018/19, just under half were UK nationals.

This fact check doesn’t address the claim that the government is “ignoring” the homeless, which is a statement of opinion.

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