New policy will force asylum seekers into destitution, say refugee groups

Many asylum seekers will be left sleeping rough and destitute as a
result of a new government policy, according to asylum and refugee

From this week, people 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

However, groups say there is no definition or guidance on what is
meant by “as soon as reasonably practicable”.

The Refugee Council believes that in practice people will have to
apply for asylum at a port immediately on entry to the UK to be

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

Also, under new measures in section 55 and 57 of the Nationality,
Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, asylum seekers will have to prove
they have applied for asylum (once they have been through screening
procedures) and meet the criteria for destitution in order to be
eligible to apply for Nass support.

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

Charity Refugee Action is seeking “urgent legal advice on how to
help asylum seekers challenge this in the courts”.

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

It will bring a test case before the High Court on behalf of
refugee groups under article 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998, which
provides protection against being subjected to cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment.

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