'Worsening crisis' for UK asylum-seekers slammed

The independent report commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) warns that suffering amongst the destitute is reaching new depths and today calls for an immediate temporary amnesty for ‘unreturnable’ asylum seekers.

The report, Still Destitute, shows that:

* More than a third of all refused asylum seekers – including children – have been homeless for a year or more. Community health teams say many are now suffering mental illness and malnutrition because of their prolonged destitution.

· Destitution is linked to country of origin, with two out of every three homeless asylum seekers coming from just four countries – Iraq, Iran, Eritrea and Zimbabwe – countries where it is difficult or impossible to arrange safe route of return because of ongoing conflict, violence or human rights abuses.

· The Government’s own figures show that a fifth of legacy cases can’t currently be returned because of factors beyond its control.

Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust trustee Peter Coltman said: “We must no longer ignore the shameful suffering of people, many of whom – the evidence clearly shows – simply can’t go home.

“That is why today we urge the Government to grant temporary leave to all those who, through no fault of their own, cannot return to their country of origin. It is also why we implore the Government to implement the rational and reasonable recommendations that the JRCT commission made three years ago and end the shame of asylum seeker destitution.”

Still Destitute is based on a survey conducted in Leeds, one of the principle UK dispersal centres, and is the third in a series of annual reports designed by JRCT to provide comparable snapshots of asylum seeker destitution in the UK.

Still Destitute also shows:

* Voluntary, charity and faith-based agencies set up to support homeless asylum seekers are close to financial breaking point and suffering increasing incidents of aggression from desperate asylum seekers

* Destitution is not simply an issue for ‘legacy cases’ – the amount of destitution resulting from the Government’s New Asylum Model has increased by a third since last year (from 45 to 60 individuals).

* One in every three refused asylum seekers is destitute because of administrative delays in processing (though destitution as a result of bureaucratic error among those still applying has fallen).

The report urges the government to grant temporary leave to remain for people who cannot return to their country of origin through no fault of their own; abolish section 4 support and make continuation of support automatic on refusal of asylum until the individual leaves the UK; recognise validity of religious, social and family connections for refugees in need of housing.

The JRCT repeats previously unheeded calls for the Government to:

* End the destitution of asylum seekers and refugees at all stages of the asylum process.

* Create systems to ensure no child or their parents are left destitute.

* Give asylum seekers at all stages a license to work so they can contribute to the UK and provide for themselves.

* Ensure asylum seekers at all stages of the process are eligible for and can access primary and secondary health care and have access to proper legal representation.


* The 2008 and 2009 reports both show that Zimbabwe (which currently has no diplomatic relationship with the UK) is the single biggest country of origin for refused asylum seekers. While the total number of refused asylum seekers recorded was down from last year’s x to this year’s 232 , a combination of factors suggest the real current figure could be a lot higher.
* National Audit Office figures for 2009 show that a fifth of ‘legacy’ cases cannot currently be resolved (be removed or given leave to stay here) because of what the UK Borders Agency refers to as ‘external factors’.

* Legacy cases are cases dealt with before the 2007 introduction of the New Asylum Model. The Model (NAM) was introduced to speed up decisions on asylum applications and manage cases through to conclusion of integration for refugees or removal of refused asylum seekers.

* ‘Section 4’ support is available to refused asylum seekers who have no other means of support and who are ‘taking all reasonable steps’ to leave the UK . It may also be granted it there is a physical or medical reason why they cannot travel or because they are seeking a judicial review.

* The lack of diplomatic relationship with a country (as in the case of the UK/ Zimbabwe – the single most common country of origin for refused asylum seekers) makes formal return of a refused asylum seeker impossible.

* The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust is an independent progressive organisation committed to funding radical change towards a better world. It makes grants of around £5m each year to individuals and to projects seeking the creation of a peaceful world, political equality and social justice. It is an endowed trust, with resources from a portfolio of investments, almost entirely held in UK and overseas shares. www.jrct.org.uk

* The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust is one of the trusts established by Joseph Rowntree in 1904. For information about the different trusts see www.josephrowntree.org.uk

* The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust is a Quaker Trust. For more information about Quakers in Britain, see www.quaker.org.uk