Don’t “demonise” asylum seekers, British Red Cross tells the media

The British Red Cross has asked the media to stop demonising asylum seekers.

The warning came after a section of the media misrepresented facts relating to a report on the provision of housing for asylum seekers.

On 10th January 2014 the National Audit Office (NAO) published a report on contracts awarded by the Home Office to security firms to house asylum seekers.

The system, known as Compass, aims to house 23,000 asylum seekers in the UK.

As part of the NAO report, 30 visits were made to homes of asylum seekers. In around three cases evidence of electronics, such as mobile phones, was found. According to some newspapers, this is a sign of wealth.

Some publications even extrapolated this figure to claim that 2,000 asylum seekers are wrongly claiming government support.

Hugo Tristram, refugee services development officer at the British Red Cross said presenting the report’s findings in this way is irresponsible.

“Asylum support is well below the lowest level of support received by a British national, in some cases as little as 54 per cent of income support. That’s £36.62 a week,” Hugo said. "No mention is made of the many thousands of asylum seekers and refugees at the end of the asylum process who are unable to access any form of support.”

Hugo added: “Each year the British Red Cross assists over 6,000 such people who are not in receipt of government support and are living in abject destitution."

The Red Cross poured scorn on the assertion that electronics are an indication of wealth, saying that mobile phones are an everyday necessity to most.

Asylum seekers especially need to keep in contact with their lawyers, the Home Office, friends and family.

The charity went on to warn that even in the unlikely event that a small number of asylum seekers have accumulated enough wealth to buy these items, electronic goods cannot be used as evidence of an income sufficient to meet housing and utility costs.  

Some asylum seekers arrive in the UK with money but they are in the minority, the Red Cross said.

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work, so if they are found to be in employment the Home Office would have a responsibility to prevent them from working.  

Perversely, this renders them destitute and forces them back on to government support, the charity added.

Hugo said: “We need to stop demonising this already vulnerable and marginalised group and remember our proud history of welcoming those fleeing persecution.

“The real criticism should be levelled at a flawed system that forces some of society’s most vulnerable to live in destitution for months and years on end. That is something we should all be ashamed of.”

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