SLEEPING ON THE STREETS! – treatment of asylum seekers condemned

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REFUSED asylum-seekers are eating out of bins and sleeping in parks, public toilets and phone-boxes because of government policy

New reports show government policy is forcing refused asylum-seekers into abject poverty.

This was the message yesterday from both Amnesty International UK and Refugee Action as they published a new report ‘Down and out in London – The road to destitution for rejected asylum-seekers’.

The findings are contained in an Amnesty International report on London and a Refugee Action report on another nine cities.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: ‘The government’s policy on refused asylum-seekers is a failure on both a practical level and a humanitarian level – forcing people into complete destitution as an attempt to drive them out of the country is backfiring badly and vulnerable people are suffering.

‘Refused asylum-seekers in our towns and cities are being reduced to penniless poverty – forced to sleep in parks, public toilets and phone-boxes, to go without vital medicines even after suffering torture, and to relying on the charity of friends or drop-in shelters to survive.’

Refugee Action’s Chief Executive Sandy Buchan said: ‘There exists in Britain a new and growing excluded class of people who have no contact with the authorities, no access to work or mainstream support services, and little prospect of their situation being resolved.

‘As a policy for dealing with refused asylum-seekers, destitution simply is not working. Driving people onto the streets makes return even less likely. This policy is causing enormous suffering to vulnerable people and does nothing to enhance public confidence in the system.’

Many of the refused asylum-seekers interviewed spoke of their ‘desperation’ and the absolute ‘hopelessness’ of their situation.

One case highlighted in the report is that of a 49-year-old Iraqi Kurdish man living in a caravan provided by a church. The caravan has no sanitary facilities. The man, a refused asylum-seeker whose support was cut off in October 2005, survives on food provided by the same church.

The research also interviewed Abdullah, a 26-year-old man who fled Darfur, Western Sudan.

He was denied asylum by the Home Office who insisted that he could safely return to Khartoum, against the recommendations of the UN, and despite evidence of returnees being tortured and detained by security services there.

To survive, Abdullah has relied on help from churches and friends, and has endured periods of rough sleeping.

Refugee Action and Amnesty International stressed that the government should maintain contact with refused asylum-seekers and that financial support and accommodation should continue until their case is resolved.

For those who cannot be removed within six months, temporary, renewable ‘leave to remain’ should be granted so that they can contribute to society and the economy.

The agencies are also urging the government to explore practical solutions to tackle the backlog of destitute refused asylum-seekers, estimated to number some 283,500.