Asylum seekers sleeping rough a year after government tightens law

Three quarters of organisations working with asylum seekers have
seen their clients sleep rough as a result of the controversial
section 55 of the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, The
Refugee Council has found, writes Clare

Early findings of a survey published to coincide with the first
anniversary of the introduction of the policy show that asylum
seekers have been forced to sleep in a phone box and rubbish bin
overnight after being denied support, according to 77 per cent of

Maeve Sherlock, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said:
“The past year has seen increasing numbers of asylum seekers
facing destitution and homelessness as a result of section 55.”

In December, 130 organisations responded to the survey assessing
the effect of section 55, which denies welfare support to asylum
seekers who fail to make their applications ‘as soon as
reasonably practicable’.

More than half said they, or members of their community, had to
provide emergency shelter for asylum seekers and 65 per cent have
given emergency provisions or money to asylum seekers refused
government support.

Yet 88 per cent of respondents said they do not have funding to
cover the cost of services they are providing to asylum seekers
denied support under section 55.

In December, home secretary David Blunkett announced that people
applying for asylum within three days of arrival would be supported
as long as they could provide ‘an honest appraisal of how
they reached the country and how long they have been here’.
Previously, asylum seekers had to apply within 24 hours.

The Refugee Council has joined force with more than 20
organisations including Shelter, Liberty and the Joint Council for
the Welfare of Immigrants to call for section 55 to be

The full report is expected at the end of February.

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