Review of Labour’s policies singles out asylum seekers’ poor treatment

    Policies introduced since Labour came to power in 1997 have
    helped make asylum seekers the most socially excluded group in the
    UK, according to a report published this week.

    The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found that, while poverty has
    been alleviated for some vulnerable groups over the past seven
    years, asylum policies have led to a “reduction in rights” for this
    group in employment, income and housing.

    The review of government policies on poverty, inequality and
    social exclusion finds that the impact of asylum policies “ran in
    the opposite direction” to other areas assessed, most of which show
    improvement.

    It highlights the withdrawal of benefits for asylum seekers and
    the introduction of accommodation centres in legislation passed
    since 1999 as part of a “progressive reduction” in support.

    “Asylum seekers… are denied the right to seek employment, have
    only limited and problematic access to health services and are
    dispersed to highly deprived areas… where they are vulnerable to
    harassment and physical attacks,” the report says.

    “In future, their children are to be educated in segregated
    institutions. It would be hard to concoct a better recipe for
    social exclusion.”

    The report says asylum policies run “contrary” to other
    government objectives including reducing rough sleeping,
    encouraging employment and creating an inclusive society.

    Charity Refugee Action said the report showed how asylum policy
    had been “fuelled” by the government’s desire to get the numbers of
    asylum seekers down in response to “right-wing hysteria” in the
    media.

    The charity called for asylum seekers to be allowed to work, and
    for asylum support, which currently stands at 70 per cent of income
    support, to be raised above the poverty line.

    But the report also reveals that children have benefited most
    under Labour, with the government “on track” to hit its target of
    reducing the number of children living in relative poverty by a
    quarter by 2004-5 mainly through tax benefit reforms.

    But the report adds that relative child poverty levels for the
    UK are still above the EU average.

     

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