22 January 2016

ECRE member, the British Red Cross, has found that more than 9,000 asylum seekers in the UK are destitute, without adequate access to food, accommodation and healthcare.

Based on the experiences of asylum seekers in South Yorkshire, the report finds that a quarter of people are going hungry every day, more than half have no fixed address and more than half have faced deteriorating health. Those who have been granted protection are also destitute, due to a very short time period of 28 days to move from asylum support to mainstream benefits.

The figures have been published alongside a report, ‘Poor health, no wealth, no home: a case study of destitution’ launched to coincide with the House of Lords debate on the proposed Immigration Bill. The bill includes measures to remove the right to appeal for refused asylum seekers against a decision removing asylum support although a majority of such appeals are successful. In addition, families with children who have no right of appeal against refusals of asylum will no longer be entitled to support.

Alex Fraser, head of refugee services at the British Red Cross states that ‘asylum support is not a matter of privilege, but a means of providing a lifeline and some basic dignity to those who have come to the UK in search of a place of safety’ adding that ‘this bill will do little to encourage asylum seekers to return home, but will have a huge humanitarian cost’.

The British Red Cross makes a number of recommendations including to give free health care to all asylum seekers irrespective of their status. It also recommends that support is given to all individuals in need up until they are recognised as refugees or able to return to their home country. In addition, refused asylum seekers who have genuine obstacles to returning through no fault of their own should be granted limited leave to remain, rather than allowing them to ‘fall between the cracks’.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 22 January 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.