The Independent Asylum Commission yesterday called for a “new deal for safe and secure returns” of failed asylum seekers, including an end to destitution for the group.
In a report, Safe return, the commission, which has been set up by campaign groups to look into national asylum policies, said the current system for removals did not meet adequate standards of humanity, effectiveness and public confidence.
It said the policy of removing access to public funds from most refused asylum seekers to encourage them to return actually decreased the likelihood of people leaving the UK voluntarily, while losing the government “moral authority”.
It also criticised the system of “section 4” support – accommodation and vouchers for basic living costs – for those who cannot return home, saying it did not meet the needs of vulnerable people and that vouchers were “ineffective, costly and stigmatising”.
A survey released alongside the report found that 61% of people in the UK felt that “no-one in the UK should be destitute, regardless of race or immigration status”.
The report found that just one in five failed asylum-seekers – of which there are an estimated 283,500 in the UK – left voluntarily but that forced removals were too expensive, traumatic and time-consuming to be effective for everyone denied sanctuary.
Basic support for all
It called for all failed asylum seekers to receive basic levels of state support and for section 4 support to be scrapped to end destitution. It also said that those who cannot return should be given a temporary work permit after six months so they can support themselves while they remain in the UK.
It said that voluntary returns should be standard – with force used as a last resort, though as a credible sanction – and that people should be given reintegration advice and support before leaving the UK.