Asylum seekers will be made ‘destitute’ by law change

Refugee welfare groups fear that many asylum seekers will be
left sleeping rough and destitute as a result of a new government
policy that will remove support for those who do not apply for
asylum immediately on arrival in the UK, writes Clare
Jerrom
.

From this week, asylum applicants who do not apply for asylum
‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ after arrival in
the country will not be eligible to apply for support from the
National Asylum Support Service

“The British government, rather than leading the way to better
protection and humane conditions for asylum seekers and refugees
across Europe, is actually pulling standards downwards, which could
result in thousands of vulnerable people being left homeless and
hungry across the continent,” said Margaret Lally, deputy chief
executive of the Refugee Council.

Under the new measures in Section 55 and 57 of the Nationality,
Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, asylum seekers will only be
eligible to apply for NASS support if they can prove they have
applied for asylum immediately and that they meet the criteria for
destitution.

However there is no definition or guidance on what is meant by
‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ according to the
council. It believes in practice this would mean asylum applicants
should apply for asylum at a port immediately on entry to the
UK.

The National Assistance Act 1948 will come into play to support
those asylum seekers with mental health or special needs.

The council fears the new measures will affect the majority of
asylum seekers as in 2001, 65 per cent of asylum applications were
in-country and not on arrival to an immigration officer at the port
of entry.

The Refugee Action also believes the new policy will cause
immense suffering, “and may contravene article 3 of the Human
Rights Act 1998″.

“We are seeking urgent legal advice on how to help asylum
seekers challenge this in the courts, and whether we launch a legal
challenge ourselves,” a statement from the charity said.

A spokesperson for Liberty confirmed this week that the civil
rights organisation will be challenging the legislation.

It will bring a test case before the high court on behalf of the
refugee groups under article three of the human rights act, which
is protection against being subjected to cruel, inhumane and
degrading treatment.

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