Keep on giving benefits for asylum seekers

Housing and financial support to a maximum of six months, says Tory report

15 December 2008. A report by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith’s think-tank has accused the Government of ‘nasty’ policy regarding the failed asylum seekers.

Mr Duncan Smith said: ‘The policy of making asylum seekers destitute is mean and nasty and has not worked.
‘The evidence gathered for this report shows that the welcome offered today falls far short of our traditional standards.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report recommended a reform to encourage failed asylum seekers to voluntarily go back to their country of origin. And it mentioned that the UK Border Agency should separate the functions into three distinct bodies: UK Borders Agency – Enforcement role, New independent body – Decision-making role,Contracted Support Agencies – Support role.

The Asylum Matters report said 26,000 failed asylum seekers in the UK are surviving on Red Cross food parcels and there are 280,000 failed applications which could take 20 years to clear. In 2006 it was estimated that there were up to 450,000 unresolved asylum cases (and many cases involve several people). A workforce of 900 personnel from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) is currently working through these cases with a target of clearing the backlog by 2011.

The research found the existing system forces many refused applicants to face destitution or disappear off the authorities’ radar and drift into illegal employment, prostitution or crime. The report said: ‘Making refused asylum seekers homeless and penniless is hugely counterproductive.

‘It is much more difficult to work with them to encourage voluntary return or to ensure timely removal.’

The repot recommended learning from the experience of voluntary sector support agencies in Australia, Sweden or Canada. The UK failed in persuading failed asylum seekers to leave voluntarily. A forced removal costs around £11,000, 10-times as much as a voluntary return.

‘We are confident that a greater number of refused asylum seekers will agree to return home voluntarily if they are supported by someone whom they trust, having built a relationship with them during the course of their asylum claim process’, says the report. 

Asylum Matters recommends speeding up the asylum system so that those rejected are returned home within six months, either forcibly or voluntarily, compared with the existing process which takes an average of 13 months.

Unsuccessful applicants should continue to receive housing and financial support for up to six months pending their removal.

Asylum seekers who are refused permission to remain but are unable to be returned should be given a temporary licence to enable them to work and to access health care.

The Home Office said it did not believe that the taxpayer should continue to support failed asylum seekers when it had been deemed safe for them to return home.

‘Asylum seekers who need support to avoid destitution are given it from the time they arrive in the UK until their claim is fully determined,’ a spokesman said.’When an asylum seeker has been found not to need protection it is our policy to discontinue providing support.

‘We do not consider that it is right to ask the UK taxpayer to continue to fund those who choose to remain here when they have no grounds to stay and it is open to them to return to a home country that has been found safe for them to live in.’ 


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