Why asylum seekers are forced into destitution in Britain

Refugee Action has appealed to the UK Government to give asylum seekers the right to work to save them from relying solely on state support to survive.

Report shows how UK Government failures force people seeking protection into unbearable poverty

The organization made the call after its research revealed that failure of the Home Office to follow its own policies was forcing vulnerable people homeless and unable to feed themselves and their families.

The report – based on analysis of more than 300 cases – shows how some of these most vulnerable people seeking protection are being wrongly denied assistance or are suffering long delays to get the support they are entitled to.

Refugee Action said everyday it sees people who have fled conflicts and persecution enduring extreme poverty. Many haven’t eaten a proper meal in weeks and are living on the streets.

Through nearly 40 in-depth interviews, Refugee Action heard shocking accounts of the stress, anxiety and hopelessness felt by families left without support, including women who had attempted to take their own lives and young people receiving counselling after contemplating suicide.

According to the research by Refugee Action, squalid living conditions are causing children to become ill while others are being bullied for smelling because their parents are forced to send them to school in dirty clothes. One family was forced to sleep on the floor of their one-room apartment for months to avoid bedbugs.

This is despite legislation setting out the Home Office’s duty to prevent people seeking asylum falling into destitution and hardship while their claims are processed, an often-lengthy period when the vast majority of people have no right to work.

Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: “Our research exposes the appalling treatment of families and individuals who have escaped war and persecution abroad, only to be badly let down here in Britain.

“The failure of the Home Office to follow their own policies has frequently left people homeless, and unable to feed themselves and their families.

“The Government must take urgent action to prevent some of the most vulnerable people in our society slipping through the cracks of the system.”

Refugee Action has urged the government to urgently recommit to applying their existing policy and guidance consistently in all cases, including making decisions on support as quickly as possible.

It has also asked the government to put into practice a transparent approach to decision-making on asylum support, within three months. This should include releasing detailed statistics on support decisions and ensuring it is publicly monitoring meaningful indicators of success.