UK leaves its asylum seekers ‘destitute, scared and hungry’

The findings of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Asylum Support for Children and Young People, published today, resonates with caseworkers supporting asylum seekers who are released from immigration detention – into destitution.

CHRISTINE OLIVER, EX-DETAINEE PROJECT MANAGER AT DDVG.

Photo credit: davco9200, http://www.flickr.com/photos/roughgroove/

The Ex-Detainee Project welcomes the findings and recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry, particularly the recommendations that:

The government should abolish Section 4 support and urgently implement a single cash-based support system for all children and their families who need asylum support while they are in the UK.

Asylum support for families also provided with accommodation should be aligned with mainstream benefit rates paid for living expenses.

Permission to work should be granted to asylum seeking parents and young adults if their claim for asylum has not been concluded within six months. Refused asylum seekers who cannot be returned to their country of origin should also be allowed to work.

Family units should be accommodated together and every effort should be made to ensure that family life is maintained and that every child is able to grow up with both parents.

Real hardship

At DDVG we are very aware that families who are awaiting a decision, or whose immigration status is undecided or complex, face real hardship on a regular basis – frequently having to make difficult choices with their extremely limited resources. Adults missing a meal so the child can pay the small cost for a non-uniform day at school, for example.

We know of families forced to live in one room of because of the mouldy, damp conditions of other rooms in their accommodation – nobody will come to fix the problems despite repeated complaints. A mother of newborn premature twins newly released from hospital was left in only her nightdress in a B&B with no clothes, nappies or food. She couldn’t avail herself of the breakfast as she had no means to bring two babies with her to eat and no appropriate clothing to wear.

Section 4 Support

The conditions and difficulties being faced in the report rang very true for us. We recently visited some shared Section 4 accommodation for single asylum-seekers / bailed migrants and were horrified at the conditions that people are forced to endure. Asylum support accommodation is on a no-choice basis. When you have no permission to work to support yourself, you have to take what is provided or sleep on the streets. What was provided was dire – no lighting in the communal areas, missing fire extinguishers, leaking sinks, broken taps, damp, broken washing machine, no curtains, no kettle, and holes in the front door.

The accommodation was a 40 minute walk very far from the nearest shop that accepts the Azure card, there are no organisations that provide help or support to migrants in the area. There is no cash to travel anywhere or undertake any activities. Work is not permitted. If this were a short term situation it might be just about bearable – however, some of the people in the accommodation we visited were Iranian men whose asylum claims have failed or who are waiting for a decision on a fresh claim. The UK has no diplomatic relations with Iran so there is no way for these people to be returned to their country, even if it were safe for them to be returned.

Can the UK government really expect people to subsist at that level of poverty year after year without any realistic prospect of improving their situation through work?

‘Another type of detention’

One of our clients described Section 4 as ‘another type of detention’ and having now seen it, I am inclined to share that view.

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