Asylum-seeking families and adults who should have become the
responsibility of the National Asylum Support Service four years
ago but remain supported by councils could be left destitute once
the European Union opens its doors to 10 more Eastern European
countries on 1 May, writes Lauren
From that date, anyone from the 10 accession countries who had
been awaiting a decision on their asylum application will cease to
be an asylum seeker, meaning councils will no longer be able to
claim money back from the Home Office for supporting them.
Kent social services director Peter Gilroy said his council
alone had 230 asylum seeking adults and families who originated
from the 10 accession countries who would fall into this category.
They are among almost 3,000 asylum seekers living in the county who
are awaiting decisions on their applications but who Nass has said
it cannot take responsibility for until 2005 due to lack of
Gilroy said that, given the removal in July 2002 of the
concession allowing asylum seekers to work after six months, few
would be in employment. However, under proposals for nationals of
new member states, they would not be entitled to benefits.
If this situation was combined with the sudden removal of
support from the council, the former asylum seekers could become
homeless and penniless overnight, he warned.
Gilroy, who is also the Association of Directors of Social
Services spokesperson on asylum seekers, urged the government to
look again at the problem and fund a transitionary period during
which councils could continue to claim back money for supporting
the new EU nationals while they looked for work.
He predicted that a lot of London councils would find themselves
in a similar situation and be faced with a difficult choice come 2
May unless changes were made.
The Home Office said it would make an announcement shortly on
the package of measures to ensure the benefits system was not
exploited and would then make information available to local
authorities about the implications.
The 10 countries joining the EU are Cyprus, Latvia, Slovakia,
Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovenia, Estonia, Malta, Hungary and
There are no central figures available for the number of asylum
seekers from the 10 countries who are currently being supported by
councils or Nass.