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

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

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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