LAWS proposed to tackle illegal immigration have sparked fears that refugees will find it harder to rent homes.

Under a new Immigration Bill announced last Monday landlords who fail to check the immigration status of their tenants could face fines and up to five years in prison.

But while acknowledging illegal immigration is a problem that needs to be tackled, Kate Smart from charity Asylum Welcome believes refugees in Oxford could face repercussions.

The charity director said she predicted landlords would be less likely to take on refugees because they would not want to run the risk of fines or prison, turning Oxford into a “less tolerant, less diverse city.”

She added: “A proportion of the people that do stay here are people who have been granted leave to remain or refugee status and if you have been given one or the other you are entitled to stay here.

“It means you look for property at the bottom of the housing market with very little support.

“I think if you are a landlord and you can pick and choose they might think ‘I do not understand these documents’ and they will say ‘I’m going to play safe’.

“People with the right to be in the UK but with more unusual documents will find it harder to be accepted by landlords and this is a particular concern in Oxford where demand for affordable rented accommodation outstrips supply.

“Landlords are not experts in immigration and there is likely to be confusion about what kind of documents indicate that a person has the right to be in the UK.”

Mrs Smart added that, according to Refugee Resource, it had been estimated there could be up to 3,000 refugees in Oxfordshire.

Asylum Welcome, based in Magdalen Road, said it would now raise its concerns with local MPs ahead of the Immigration Bill and have called on the public to do the same.

The charity, which supports refugees and asylum seekers, added it knew of refugees in Oxford who had already had difficulty finding permanent housing.

Mrs Smart said she was aware of one refugee called Amina, who moved from Algeria in 2006, who was living in a room provided by social services with her three children because finding a home proved “impossible”.

Under the proposed Immigration Bill landlords would be expected to evict tenants as soon as the Home Office told them the tenant had no right to rent in the UK.

And landlords would be expected to check their tenants’ right to live in the UK before agreeing a lease – such a “Right to Rent” scheme has been running in the West Midlands and would be replicated across the county under new laws.