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Not gone
but forgotten
A more humane asylum system

The British Red Cross is supporting an             The British Red Cross supports the following
increasing number...
About the British Red Cross                     Background                                                              Wh...
What happens when asylum                                                                                                  ...
Why do refused asylum                                                 Number of refused
    seekers stay in the UK?       ...
Policy context                                                                                                            ...
Case study

     Name: Adam*
     Age: 29
                                                         He now spends his time ...
Case study                                                                                               Case study


Case study                                                                                           British Red Cross sup...
Hygiene                                            Health and mental wellbeing                        There was a strong t...

     In addition to this survey, the British Red                                                         ...
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Not gone but forgotten: The urgent need for a more humane asylum system


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The British Red Cross is supporting an increasing number of refused asylum seekers in the UK who find themselves destitute. As a leading humanitarian organisation we believe that we have a responsibility to respond to their specific needs in times of crisis. Many of these asylum seekers come to us as a last resort, having exhausted all alternatives, with nowhere else to turn.

In Not gone, but forgotten we focus on the humanitarian situation facing refused asylum seekers who remain in the UK, and make recommendations on how to develop a more humane asylum system, which is so urgently

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Not gone but forgotten: The urgent need for a more humane asylum system

  1. 1. Not gone but forgotten A more humane asylum system
  2. 2. Summary The British Red Cross is supporting an The British Red Cross supports the following increasing number of end of process asylum changes to the asylum system: seekers in the UK who find themselves destitute. As a leading humanitarian organisation we 1. The adoption of the principle that believe that we have a responsibility to respond destitution should not be an outcome to their specific needs in times of crisis. Many of the asylum system of these asylum seekers come to us as a last 2. The provision of support for all destitute resort, having exhausted all alternatives, with refused asylum seekers with dependent nowhere else to turn. children In this paper, we focus on the humanitarian 3. An end-to-end asylum support structure, situation facing refused asylum seekers who including permission to work, until the remain in the UK. As one of a number of applicant is either removed or granted voluntary organisations who deliver support leave to remain to this vulnerable group, in this report we draw on the findings of a British Red Cross 4. An entitlement to healthcare throughout survey and also from the direct experiences of the asylum process the end of process asylum seekers we help and support. Based on this evidence, we suggest four policy recommendations that would improve the humanitarian situation of this vulnerable group (see below). We believe that the government should build a consensus and address the risk of destitution facing refused asylum seekers in the UK. 3
  3. 3. About the British Red Cross Background Why is this an issue for the British Red Cross? The British Red Cross is a humanitarian It has been estimated that there are up to The British Red Cross defines someone who is organisation that helps people in crisis, 500,000 refused asylum seekers in the UK1. destitute as: whoever and wherever they are. We are part of These are people who, for a range of reasons, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent have not returned home, are still living in the “A person who is not accessing public funds, is Movement – a global volunteer network that UK with very limited or no access to support living in extreme poverty and is unable to meet responds to conflicts, natural disasters and from the state and who are not allowed to basic needs e.g. income, food, shelter, healthcare individual emergencies. work. They become reliant on the goodwill and who is forced to rely on irregular support of friends and support from faith groups from family, friends, charities or illegal working We enable vulnerable people at home and and charities. In many cases they experience to survive.” overseas to prepare for and respond to exploitation, overcrowded living conditions, individual crisis, as well as emergencies in Humanitarian assistance is a phrase that most street homelessness, physical and mental people normally associate with the work of their own communities. When the crisis or illnesses and malnourishment. emergency is over, we help people recover the Red Cross internationally with victims of and move on with their lives. The British Red Cross accepts that the persecution, conflict, or disaster. However, we government has a right to control its borders, are increasingly being called upon to provide As a member of the Red Cross and Red and to remove asylum seekers who have not such support to help refused asylum seekers Crescent Movement, we are committed to, been granted protection. However, over the who become destitute in the UK. and bound by, our fundamental principles last six years we have spent an increasing – humanity, impartiality, neutrality, “Giving food to destitute asylum seekers here amount of resources addressing a growing is not very different from handing out food independence, voluntary service, unity and humanitarian need amongst this group, and universality. The principle of humanity is from the back of lorries in the Sudan. The we believe we have a responsibility to highlight humanitarian need is the same.” Red Cross “to prevent and alleviate human suffering their plight. wherever it may be found”. international aid worker This paper highlights the dire humanitarian While there are a number of reasons why situation that many refused asylum seekers asylum seekers become destitute, for example experience on a daily basis. Many of these as a result of delays in the asylum application findings complement the work of the Still process, this paper specifically focuses on Human Still Here campaign, of which the refused asylum seekers who are at high risk of British Red Cross is a member, dedicated becoming destitute. to highlighting the plight of refused asylum seekers who are destitute in the UK. 1 Gordon, Scanlon, Travers & Whitehead (2009, February) Economic impact on London and the UK of an earned regularisation of irregular migrants in the UK: An Interim Report from LSE. 4 Available: 5
  4. 4. What happens when asylum Case study applications are refused? Once an asylum application is refused and all Asylum seekers may also become destitute due Name: Aatifa* During this time the British Red Cross provided appeal rights have been exhausted, asylum to difficulties in accessing Section 4 support Age: 21 vouchers and food parcels. Upon finding out support for applicants is withdrawn after as the following case study from one of our she was unaware of her entitlements we talked Country of origin: Eritrea 21 days and they are evicted from their service users illustrates: to her about her entitlement to Section accommodation. In some cases this notice Job/Profession in home country: 4 support, and helped her find a solicitor. period is shortened to as little as seven days Delays in receiving Section 4 support have also Shop assistant when notification of the termination of support been identified as a reason for destitution. An Time spent destitute in the UK: “I feel very sad and lost. I sometimes wish arrives later than notification of the decision. inquiry into destitution among refused asylum One and a half years I were dead.” Asylum seekers whose claims for asylum have seekers in Leeds found that ‘waiting for Section Current location: Leicester “Everyday is routine. I meet the same people been refused are expected to return voluntarily 4 to begin’ was a cause of destitution for 33 per cent of individuals in their 2009 survey. This and I do the same things.” to their countries of origin or are forcibly Four main faiths - the Orthodox, Catholic and removed from the UK. figure had increased from 27 per cent in 2008 Lutheran churches and Islam - are officially From week to week, she survived on a £10 and 19 per cent in 2006.3 recognised in Eritrea. In 2002, the government food voucher from the British Red Cross and Asylum claimants who are unable to return banned all minority religious groups. Since £5 cash from a friend. With this she could Refused asylum seekers frequently feel they immediately to their country of origin are 2003, evangelical church members have been eat just once a day, sometimes twice. She have poor legal representation, or that their entitled to a limited form of support known arbitrarily detained during “home-worshipping” sometimes slept on the floor of a friend’s house case has not been understood due to poor as ‘Section 4’. To be eligible, they must be or at weddings. Aatifa and her father were and sometimes at a local church. She couldn’t interpreting. In many cases they are not able destitute and be taking steps to leave the UK, detained and tortured for two months in an stay anywhere longer than a week and so she to get legal representation at all at the appeal be unable to leave for logistical or health attempt to force them to sign a document moved around a lot. stage4. Nevertheless a substantial number of reasons, have an outstanding judicial review or agreeing to stop worshipping. Aatifa managed refused claims are upheld at the appeal stage. Due to British Red Cross advice and have other outstanding representations. People to escape with the help of her uncle who Around 70 per cent of asylum claims that result intervention, Aatifa is now accessing Section 4 on Section 4 are entitled to accommodation organised her travel to Sudan and a flight to in refusal go to appeal and of these some 20-25 support and seeing a therapist to help her cope and £35 a week in vouchers, effectively £5 the UK. She had to leave her father in prison. per cent are upheld.5 with her depression. a day. This is little more than 50 per cent of standard income support. Aatifa, then 19 years old, arrived in the UK in Despite having been refused protection, many February 2006 and she was refused asylum, of these asylum seekers still fear returning to Many of the people who reach the end of the her support was stopped so that she became their country to such an extent that they prefer 21-day period do not submit an application for destitute for over a year. to stay in the UK and face destitution. Section 4 support because they are frightened of what will happen to them if they return People in this situation find themselves caught home. A recent study by the Joseph Rowntree in limbo; unable to seek government support Charitable Trust2 found that some refused or to work legally, yet unable to return. asylum seekers felt they could not return to The evidence that so many refused asylum their country of origin. It reported that “some seekers risk destitution, rather than going desperately missed their family, but stayed back to their place of origin, reveals both in the UK to safeguard their lives, fearing the desperateness of the situations they have death and persecution if they returned”. In fled, and sometimes lack of knowledge about addition, people have also reported difficulties accessing Section 4 support. in accessing the range of advice that they need during this very short period in which they are I feel very sad and lost. expected to make such a major decision in their lives. I sometimes wish I were dead 2 Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (2009) Still destitute 3 Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (2009) Destitution in Leeds: the experiences of people seeking asylum and supporting agencies 4 Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) and Asylum Aid (2005) Justice Denied: Asylum and Immigration Legal Aid – a System in Crisis 6 5 National Audit Office (2009) The Home Office - Management of Asylum Applications by the UK Border Agency 7
  5. 5. Why do refused asylum Number of refused seekers stay in the UK? asylum seekers in the UK There are a range of reasons why refused asylum seekers stay in the UK. These include: “No government has been able to produce an accurate figure of the number of people who are “Similarly, destitute asylum seekers are rarely to be found begging on streets. No government Asylum seekers feel extremely vulnerable and has been able to in the country illegally and that includes failed6 > They cannot leave the UK through no asylum seekers. By its very nature it is impossible make every effort to remain out of sight of fault of their own (e.g. they are stateless to quantify and that remains the case.”7 ‘officials’. As well as feeling open to personal and have no country to return to, their government will not provide them with In 2009, the London School of Economics attack and abuse the penalty of being discovered is likely to be deportation.”11 produce an accurate travel documents, they are too sick to travel or there is no viable route to return home). estimated there were 500,000 refused asylum seekers8 in the UK. In 2007, Refugee Action9 Many refused asylum seekers stop visiting figure of the number suggested there were 200,000 and the National destitution support projects when there is no > They have been in the UK for a long period and have developed strong ties with the UK (e.g. Audit Office estimated between 155,000 longer any service or form of support that of people who are in and 283,500. This would suggest the current agencies are realistically able to provide and entering relationships and having children). policy is not meeting the government’s stated objectives, as well as creating what is effectively therefore become even more invisible. the country illegally > They think it is unsafe for them to return It is important that the ongoing uncertainty because they fear death or persecution if a humanitarian crisis. of the exact population of refused asylum they return. seekers does not distract from the desperate There is evidence that the number of refused asylum seekers in this country is growing. situation that some of these individuals find Based on Home Office statistics10, we estimate themselves in. that the number of refused asylum seekers remaining in the UK increased by as much as 2,685 in 2008 alone. However these figures may underestimate the true extent of those who are destitute. A recent statement from the Leicester Refugee and Asylum Seekers’ Voluntary Sector Forum illustrates the hidden nature of destitution. It stated: “The desire to remain invisible is also the likely explanation of why the agencies who patrol the streets of Leicester at night such as the Rough Sleepers Unit and Street Pastors verbally report that they rarely come across asylum seekers sleeping rough.” 6 The British Red Cross refers to ‘failed’ or ‘rejected’ asylum seekers as ‘refused’ asylum seekers in this report. 7 (2008, October 21) Asylum. House of Commons Hansard written answer from Phil Woolas MP, Immigration Minister. Available: 8 Gordon, Scanlon, Travers & Whitehead (2009, February) Economic impact on London and the UK of an earned regularisation of irregular migrants in the UK: An Interim Report from LSE. Available: 9 Refugee Action (2007) The Destitution Trap 10 UK Border Agency (2008) Control of Immigration: Quarterly Statistical Summary, United Kingdom, October - December 2008 11 Refugee Action and Leicester Refugee and Asylum Seekers’ Voluntary Sector Forum (2005) 8 (second edition) Available: A report of destitution in the asylum system in Leicester 9
  6. 6. Policy context What they say If an asylum application has been refused, the In addition, the Home Affairs Select Based on our experience, end of process asylum seeker is expected to return to their Committee stated their concern highlighting destitute asylum seekers who seek support own country voluntarily or face forced return. that: “Where the removal of a failed asylum are men, women and children from a range A recent parliamentary answer re-affirmed this seeker is delayed through no fault of his of cultures, ethnic groups and faiths. However, policy stating that: “Failed asylum seekers of own, it is morally unacceptable for him to be many of those engaged with Red Cross all nationalities who have been found by the rendered destitute.” services are from Africa. This is not surprising Home Office and the appeals process not to be because research points to a high percentage Members of Parliament have also questioned the in need of international protection and have of individuals seeking asylum in the UK come effectiveness of this policy and have called for a no legal basis of stay in the UK are expected to from the African continent. For example, in re-think in this area help prevent end of process return to their country of origin and may have 2008, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust destitution. For example, the Rt Hon Iain Duncan their removal enforced.”12 survey in Leeds found that nearly 75 per cent Smith MP called for an end of the withdrawal of of those destitute were nationals from countries Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human support to asylum seekers. He stated that: “It also which were in conflict or had widespread Rights has highlighted concerns about appears that a British government is using forced and serious human rights violations including government policy in this area. When destitution as a means of encouraging people to Zimbabwe, Sudan, Democratic Republic of investigating the treatment of asylum seekers leave voluntarily. It is a failed policy…”13 Congo and Eritrea.15 the Committee reported that: “We have been Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, also Often, these individuals are highly educated persuaded by the evidence that the government called for a migrants’ amnesty. He recently and skilled but are left in a state of limbo, has indeed been practicing a deliberate policy commissioned the London School of unable to return to their home countries of destitution of this highly vulnerable group. Economics to conduct a piece of research because of fear. They are highly motivated We believe that all deliberate use of inhumane which found that an amnesty could potentially individuals who would like the opportunity treatment is unacceptable. We have seen yield £3 billion in revenue. This figure is partly to contribute to society. instances in all cases where the government’s made up from increased tax revenues and treatment of asylum seekers and refused increased wages.14 Below are the experiences of four refused asylum seekers falls below the requirements asylum seekers who sought assistance from of the common law of humanity and the British Red Cross when destitute. international human rights law.” In a further report the Committee concluded that: “The policy of enforced destitution must cease. The system of asylum seeker support is a confusing mess. We have seen no justification for providing varying standards of support and recommend the introduction of a coherent, unified, simplified and accessible system of support for asylum seekers, from arrival until voluntary departure or compulsory removal from the UK” 12 (2009, March 30) Asylum - Deportation. House of Commons Hansard written answer from Phil Woolas MP, Immigration Minister. Available: 13 Asylum and Destitution Working Group (2008, December) Asylum Matters – Restoring Trust in the UK Asylum System. The Centre for Social Justice 10 14 Alan Travis (2009, June 16) Migrants amnesty would aid economy by £3bn, says study, The Guardian 15 Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (2008) More Destitution in Leeds 11
  7. 7. Case study Name: Adam* Age: 29 He now spends his time trying to search for food by visiting different people he knows. I want to be Country of origin: Sudan He has no income at all and has no regular source of food or shelter. independent and not Job/Profession in home country: University student “I eat once a day if friends can spare some food.” depend on others’ Dependents in home country: Wife and two children in Sudan He says he really wants to be able to support kindness for food. Time spent destitute in the UK: I want to be able himself and not rely on handouts from other Five months people. Current location: Cardiff Adam was a university student in Sudan. The “I feel really bad not having a job. I want to be independent and not depend on others’ to support my family government arrested him when problems kindness for food. I want to be able to support broke out in Darfur. He was accused of inciting my family as well.” fellow students. Adam was detained on two separate occasions and was tortured during his Adam tries to occupy himself by going to detention; he was kicked and beaten with iron language classes and reading at the library. poles, locked in a small room where burning He says that life in the UK is now similar to life material was thrown in to choke him, and tied in Sudan because in both places he was not upside-down if he did not give the answers his able to support himself; in the UK he is not torturers wanted. When Adam was released, he allowed to work and in Sudan he could not live was told to regularly report and sign in with the openly because the authorities were looking authorities, but he decided to flee the country. for him. The situation has caused him severe depression. Adam paid an agent to take him somewhere safe but he did not know where he was going. The British Red Cross has been able to support Adam claimed asylum in the UK in January Adam in a limited capacity. We are able to 2008 and was refused asylum a year later in provide £10 food vouchers per week, and February 2009. clothes and toiletries from our clothing project. Adam has been given advice on where he can access a homelessness project and receive hot food on a daily basis. 12 13
  8. 8. Case study Case study Name: Mary* After Mary’s claim was refused in 2004 and Name: David* David slept rough in Manchester Piccadilly train Age: 26 her support was cut, she begged food from Age: 31 station and was attacked there by a group of friends. She received weekly food parcels from young men. Country of origin: Uganda Country of origin: Sudan a refugee organisation in Manchester. After this Dependents: Three children in Uganda Job/Profession in home country: “I used to go to Piccadilly Gardens in she found friends who needed help looking Time spent destitute in the UK: after their children in exchange for food or a Shop manager Manchester city centre. People used to give me Four years floor to sleep on. She would spend all day Time spent destitute in the UK: change to buy sandwiches or chips.” Current location: London looking after the children and doing housework. Two years He visited the British Red Cross destitution She worked hard so that they might let her stay Current location: Manchester project in Manchester every week and was “My twin sister died of female genital a little longer. given a food parcel. mutilation (FGM) when she was 13 years old.” When the Sudanese government found out “Some would let me stay for a week, some that David was a member of the opposition “The Red Cross gave me hot drinks and snacks. However, when Mary turned 13 years old, a month. I lost count of how many times I party they detained and tortured him. Upon It was the best day.” she was pregnant with her father’s baby. Her moved. The last friend that I stayed with let release, he paid an agent to smuggle him father had been sexually abusing her since “It didn’t make sense to me that I found myself me stay for one and a half years. She is so kind. on a ferry. He survived on one sandwich and she was eight. in Great Britain not having a roof on my head I was lucky.” bottle of water a day for 23 days hiding in “After giving birth, it became time for me to the bottom compartment where the cars and and not having food to eat. But the only good Mary was detained in 2008 when the Home thing was I felt safe even when I was sleeping be cut. My mother came from a different tribe lorries were parked. Office raided a house she was staying in. There rough; there was no bombardment from where they do not practise FGM and did not was a mix up by the Home Office with her “It was a horrible experience. I could only use government aeroplanes at night.” want me to have it done because she was scared case, which they later admitted. Her case is still the toilet once a day.” that I would die like my sister. When I refused, unresolved. The British Red Cross provided David with food community members beat me very badly. My Before the ship arrived in port David was told to parcels and vouchers for two years. We helped father then kept me in a room where I was Mary is HIV positive but has never disclosed get inside a lorry. After driving for three hours, him with travelling costs to London to meet repeatedly beaten and five men came and raped this to any of her friends or acquaintances. the lorry abandoned him in a small town near with a solicitor and assisted in transferring his me. I gave birth to another baby girl as a result She has numerous health problems stemming Liverpool. David eventually found his way to documentation to a local solicitor in Manchester. of these rapes. They were trying to break me so from this, including eye infections. Because of Liverpool screening unit. He claimed asylum in I would agree to be cut.” her poor diet she is severely anaemic. She has July 2005. He was refused asylum in 2007. considered committing suicide on a number At 19 years old, her mother arranged for an of occasions. “It was a nightmare not knowing where to go agent to help her to escape. The agent took her and thinking about night and how to find a from her home and put her on a flight to the UK. Mary came to the British Red Cross in 2009. warm place to sleep.” On arrival, she was abandoned on a bus bound She had been destitute for four years even for London. though she had submitted further evidence to support her asylum claim in 2006. We provided Mary later found out that her parents were food vouchers and arranged emergency beaten to death by the community for accommodation for a weekend. allowing her to escape. Her younger sister now looks after her three children that she It was a nightmare not knowing where had to leave behind. They are constantly on the run in case the community tracks them to go and thinking about night and how down and kills them. to find a warm place to sleep 14 15
  9. 9. 50 40 30 20 10 Responding to the crisis The effects of destitution Destitution impact 0 of destitution facing refused asylum survey findings Since 2003, our work supporting destitute seekers The British Red Cross asked a one hundred asylum seekers has grown significantly and and one, asylum seekers who used our services continues to rise. In 2004, we directly assisted Lack of shelter and sleeping rough, an about their experiences of the asylum process.17 7,920 destitute asylum seekers and by 2008 inability to feed and clothe oneself, and a One of the most striking findings was that six this had increased to 11,600. In total, last reliance on informal support structures are out of ten respondents had been destitute for a year we assisted over 28,300 destitute asylum the characteristics of destitution. year or more. In fact, some had been destitute seekers including those assisted indirectly These characteristics are often experienced in for over five years. through the financial support we offer to combination and have a devastating impact other agencies supplying emergency relief. on an individual’s well-being. Mental and Length of time of destitution Our largest project in Birmingham sees physical health problems are frequently around 120 people a week at its twice-weekly either caused, or compounded by, destitution 3% destitution clinic. The overwhelming majority leading to crisis situations. of these clients are refused asylum seekers. Most refused asylum seekers feel safer 14% We have a number of specific destitution being destitute and homeless in the UK than support services across the UK. Each service returning to their home country despite being provides short-term emergency support to at risk of violence and exploitation. 7% people with nowhere else to turn to and no means to support themselves. Our emergency Without entitlement to welfare support or support can consist of food vouchers, food access to the labour market, destitute asylum 59% 17% parcels, toiletries, travel expenses, clothing, seekers can become involved in irregular maternity packs, accommodation for a few employment, often under exploitative, nights and emotional support. dangerous but hidden conditions. Research has exposed instances of prostitution16. By We also signpost people to services where they its very nature, this activity and therefore the can get further assistance, and we advocate on extent of the problem are hidden. their behalf. Support is provided on a case-by-   months 0-1 case basis at the discretion of managers and   months 2-3 caseworkers. Most of our support is limited to   months 4-6 short periods of time to help destitute people   months 7-12 through periods of acute crisis while they explore and consider other options. We will   year + 1 signpost people to organisations which can assist their return to their country if they want to pursue that option. We treat people with dignity and provide a space for them to tell their story. Often clients tell us that it is this aspect of our support that they appreciate most. 16 Malfait, R. & Scott-Flynn, N. (May 2005) Destitution of asylum seekers and refugees in Birmingham 17 In 2008 the British Red Cross interviewed 101 of its destitute service users in order to gain more of an insight into the characteristics, humanitarian needs and experiences of destitute asylum seekers. We interviewed at 22 locations offering Red Cross services and the interviewees were from 33 countries. (39 were female and 62 were male). We found the overwhelming majority of respondents to have 16 become destitute due to being at the end of the asylum process and having their application refused. 17
  10. 10. Case study British Red Cross support Name: Michael* A nurse helped him escape, by saying that he Interviewees received a range of services and Many become dependent on ‘goodwill’ Age: 31 needed an operation. A priest then helped him essential support from British Red Cross support from family and friends. However get to Uganda. From Uganda he fled to the UK, projects around the UK. The following graph this can create strains on relationships, Country of origin: where he claimed asylum in October 2003. shows that the most commonly given forms particularly if the resources of the family and/ Democratic Republic of Congo of support are food vouchers, food parcels, or friends are also very limited. Such strain is Dependents: Three children in Uganda Michael’s asylum claim was refused in August advice and information, toiletries and clothes. demonstrated by this comment: “Today this Time spent destitute in the UK: 2004 and since then he has been destitute. friend, then another. Sometimes they wouldn’t Five years Michael says he is surviving because of the open the door as they knew it was me. I had Shelter generosity of people. He was once unable to Current location: Birmingham Our survey found that refused asylum seekers to find somewhere else to sleep and to try and get food for three days, and decided to walk escape the rain.” are forced to compromise their safety and Michael completed his university degree in into a supermarket. In desperation he spoke to dignity when making sleeping arrangements. economics before taking charge of a flourishing the shop manager about his problem. The shop Even where support from family and friends When asked ‘where do you normally sleep?’ family business. When the conflict began, manager gave him some unsold fruit and bread. is available, it is often in poor conditions and Michael and his family fled to their farm in > 69 per cent of those we surveyed who were overcrowded housing. Of those we interviewed, He was attacked by some homeless people 42 per cent reported not being able to stay at Minova. Many civilians including Michael’s destitute were staying with friends in a coach station. Michael has received their sleeping base during the day. father and his son were killed in the fighting. treatment for severe depression. He has had > 28 per cent reported sleeping rough at A month later Michael was falsely arrested thoughts about killing himself. He is shocked different stages of their destitution. Churches and mosques were also identified and jailed for four months without trial. at the reception he has received in the UK. as an important source of shelter. “I was beaten constantly and violently One interviewee said she stayed with “friends “The human right should be the first thinking at first, but now I have the baby I sleep rough “We have also slept in a church. When we throughout the day and night. Rebel guards for English people. I am really suffering.” outside their home”. were in Coventry we stayed with a friend but even urinated on me after beating me. I was we had to leave due to my wife’s mental health interviewed several times about my family and Michael came to the British Red Cross problems. Then we stayed at the church.” my link with the Mai-Mai militia. I was accused destitution clinic in Birmingham. We assist of funding the militia.” him with food vouchers, clothing vouchers, British Red Cross services and travel expenses to attend medical Michael had never had any contact with the appointments in London. Mai-Mai militia and he had never been a 70 political activist even as a student. As a result 60 of the beatings Michael became very ill. He lost a testicle due to severe infection from an 50 injury inflicted by the rebels. 40 30 20 I was beaten constantly and violently 10 throughout the day and night. Rebel guards 0 rs els at ice es s sh es d gs ns at cy he o he od en tri ns Ca o ba n n fo rc rm v ot isi io io fo ad ile uc pa pe m rg even urinated on me after beating me. ed Cl ng ov To vo co me in al ex ar od pr pi d er ep od ee ac E el Fo an en ty av Pr Sl Fo ni G Tr er at M 18 19
  11. 11. Hygiene Health and mental wellbeing There was a strong theme of respectfulness “It was horrible. Sometimes I wanted to kill Respondents highlighted the variation in their Lack of food and nutritious diet affects and consideration for their host’s cooking myself. Just walked around, went to the park ability to access facilities to wash and keep the physical health of an individual and facilities. One respondent said: “My friend or mosque to pray. Slept there sometimes. All clean. One said: “I go to my friend’s house is exacerbated by the removal of health would let me use her cooker but I don’t want to day visit friends. Watch TV if they’re in a good twice a week to use his bathroom.” provision for some categories of people. impose or make her bills higher so I don’t use mood. If not go into town and try to forget. Physical health patterns include hepatitis C or her facilities”. Clear my mind.” Refused asylum seekers are increasingly B, HIV, TB, kidney failure (requiring dialysis degraded when their personal hygiene Men and women who have fled torture and Plans and hopes for the future treatment), infectious diseases, diabetes, heart deteriorates as a result of being unable to pay persecution in their home countries suffer Refused asylum seekers live in limbo and are conditions, and cancer. for laundry services, hair cuts, clean underwear from a range of mental health problems, never sure of their future. or other essentials. Women require materials “I’ve been hungry for days.” including post-traumatic stress disorder and for menstruation, a basic need that is often disorientation. These problems are exacerbated “All my plans are on hold. My worries concern forgotten. A destitute woman nervously told us: Those who took part in the survey were by their destitution upon a negative asylum my family at home.” “I need special things for being a girl.” dependent on churches, mosques, charities, claim. Refused asylum seekers can suffer from Most of those interviewed said they could not friends and family for food. extreme anxiety, depression and vulnerability. Children make plans for the future as they could only > 71 per cent reported eating just one and Thoughts of suicide are not uncommon, and at take each day at a time. One said: “I do not Twenty-four of the respondents had children, least four of our respondents had contemplated making it even harder to survive on the maybe two meals a day. see a future. I have no plans although I used to. killing themselves. I now just survive each day at a time. How can minimal support available: “I need more food. > 59 per cent stated that the British Red I have to give what I have to my children.” “Sometimes I feel like killing myself, I think about the future?” Another interviewee Cross was an important source of food, said: “I have no hope. If I have to go back and 34 per cent cited the British Red Cross I feel crazy”. In some cases the arrival of a child meant home I will kill myself.” existing arrangements to stay with friends as the main provider of their food. One respondent, who had lost a limb, shared were stopped. the story of how he went for countless fittings More positive responses included: “I would > 19 per cent reported purchasing their like to finish my political science degree.” food was commonly facilitated through for a prosthetic replacement. However, upon The inability to provide small gifts such his asylum claim being refused, he was denied This interviewee was shot in Zimbabwe as toys and sweets for their children was a the provision of vouchers by the British during a political demonstration. Another Red Cross. the limb that had been made up for him. significant source of distress for destitute This is an example of the limited entitlement respondent showed enthusiasm towards parents: “I cannot even buy them sweets”. > 49 per cent said that much of their food to healthcare having an effect on a person’s wanting to work and contribute to the UK: was provided by friends. health and mental wellbeing. “If I get my papers I can work and study, There was a strong and consistent theme of A typical day pay taxes and give something back. I wanted gratitude and resignation that beggars can’t Boredom and an inability to make plans to be a doctor, but now maybe foreign affairs be choosers. One interviewee explained, “It’s for the future is another characteristic of to help people”. not a good diet, but I eat what I eat because destitution. One explained: “It was very A disheartening response from one I have nothing else.” difficult. Very depressing, not knowing what the respondent summed up their experiences future will be, and facing people who do not of destitution: “I hope to have the strength Another showed signs of a complete loss understand. I attended college and volunteered to carry on standing”. of dignity with the comment: “I don’t want in one the churches.” to ask or be a nuisance. It is hard to ask for help. It’s how I was brought up – to be There was a lot of reference to walking about independent. I don’t want to be a burden. But to pass the time: “I cannot stay with my friend If I get my papers I I am a beggar now. My friends have provided for me but it has been too long. It gets harder during the day so I spend the day walking like homeless people in the city centre. Watching can work and study, to ask them for help.” > Only 26 per cent reported ‘always’ having people and sitting on benches.” Many came to spend time at British Red Cross and Refugee pay taxes and give access to adequate cooking facilities. Council offices. Eighteen said they spent time in the local library. > More than half ‘never’ or ‘only sometimes’ something back. have access to cooking facilities. 20 21
  12. 12. Recommendations In addition to this survey, the British Red This paper highlights the humanitarian Cross has also been involved in a number suffering facing end-of-process refused of others, which have highlighted similar asylum seekers. evidence of destitution among refused asylum seekers. A recent report confirms As a humanitarian organisation, the British there are a significant number of destitute Red Cross believes there is a need for policy- asylum seekers in Leicester18; some have makers to do more to focus on, reduce and been trying to cope with destitution for relieve the suffering many of these vulnerable several years now. It found that 54 per cent individuals have to endure. had been destitute for over a year and 16 We urge the government and other political per cent have been destitute for five years or parties to build a consensus to address the more, the longest being for 13 years. Thirty- issues highlighted in this report. six individuals reported that they were caring for dependent children. A recent Asylum Support Partnership report19 The British Red Cross supports the which included a survey of British Red Cross following changes to the asylum system: services in the UK reinforced such findings. 1. The adoption of the principle that It found that nearly half of visits to refugee destitution should not be an outcome of the charities are from those who are destitute. asylum system The majority of these have had their claims refused, with many having been destitute for 2. The provision of support for all destitute longer than six months. The report claims refused asylum seekers with dependent that 250 destitute families with children children visited charities in the last year. The report also showed that half of all those recorded 3. An end-to-end asylum support structure, as destitute came from just four countries – including permission to work, until the Iraq, Iran, Zimbabwe and Eritrea20. applicant is either removed or granted leave to remain 4. An entitlement to healthcare throughout the asylum process 18 Destitution in the asylum system in Leicester, Leicester Refugee and Asylum Seekers’ Voluntary Sector Forum (2009) (The survey involved 148 destitute individuals, of which 101 were British Red Cross clients) 19 The Second Destitution Tally, Asylum Support Partnership (2009) (British Red Cross services based in Manchester, Peterborough, Norwich, London and Birmingham took part in the survey) 20 The British Red Cross does not make judgements on the safety or otherwise of countries for returning refugees and asylum seekers. 22 The UNHCR issues statements about the safety of countries in the context of returning refugees. 23