Refugee Action warns of destitution ‘time bomb’ set by the government

Destitution among asylum seekers is a “time bomb”, a leading
campaigner has warned.

The government’s policy of denying support to failed
asylum seekers who refuse to go home was increasing destitution,
said Sandy Buchan, chief executive of Refugee Action.

Destitute asylum seekers were left to “drift about” and forced
into illegal working and even prostitution, he added. To compound
the problem they are expected to arrange their own passage home and
are unable to appeal against the decision to deny them support.

“This destitution will be a moral challenge that we will be
reckoning with year on year,” he told delegates at an Infolog
Training conference on asylum support last week.

He said that destitution would become the “hottest issue of the
year” as many other asylum seekers were being made destitute by
section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.
This section denies support to asylum seekers who fail to make
their claim “as soon as reasonably practicable”.

The policy of denying support to failed asylum seekers who
refuse to go home is to be extended to cover their families under
the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Bill, which
is currently going through parliament. This, controversially, could
result in their children being taken into care.

Buchan added that asylum seekers are often viewed
unsympathetically by the legal system, whereas in other cases where
victims’ claims are hard to prove they are given more

He questioned whether the “pendulum” would ever swing the other
way for asylum seekers, but felt positive comments by politicians
at the conference meant “perhaps there is a political space opening
up where that is possible”.

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