Asylum victims attacked, destitute and vilified say reports - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
April 13, 2005

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Asylum victims attacked, destitute and vilified say reports


As politicians race to win votes in the UK general election by scapegoating asylum seekers and refugees, new evidence shows that people fleeing persecution are being brutalised and left destitute, confirming the fears of Britainís churches about their treatment.

A new Oxfam-funded study in Scotland shows that hundreds of asylum victims are being abandoned because of persistent UK home office administrative errors and delays.

The study says families have been evicted because of wrong paperwork. The Herald newspaper in Scotland reports how one man, Jamal, a graduate and bank worker from Sudan, was stabbed by three people in Edinburgh after prolonged delays with his claim left him isolated on the streets.

Another woman Estella, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was evicted from her flat after the National Asylum Support Service got her mixed up with a man from another country.

The Refugee Survival Trust, which has produced the damning new evidence, says mistakes and delays by Nass, the government organisation set up to provide support to people making an asylum application in the UK, accounted for 52% of more than 1000 applicants who applied for emergency grants between January 2000 and May 2004. One third of these people were homeless.

In 13% of cases, there was a failure or delay in payment after a person had been dispersed and 12% of support was wrongly terminated for unspecified reasons.

RST, which provides emergency grants to asylum seekers, has called for urgent action to overhaul the system for refugees seeking sanctuary.

"The problems of destitution are not related only to specific policies, but are inherent in the underlying policy framework," the report says. "Interviewees reported flashbacks, panic attacks and physical inability to cope with experiences of destitution."

Many people are too afraid to return to places such as Iran or Iraq so they are left destitute, according to the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees. Asylum seekers from Sri Lanka are being turned away despite well documented claims of violence, repression and intimidation in their land of origin.

There is also more evidence that asylum applicants are being assaulted by private security guards, despite a recent BBC documentary exposing brutality inside detention centres.

New figures show record numbers of complaints alleging assault by staff working for firms involved in deportation.

The firm GSL topped the league of complaints, according to Black Information Link, with a third of the allegations being made against their guards.

GSL were shamed in the BBC documentary Asylum Undercover, screened in March 2005, which showed guards boasting about routine violence and sexual assault on detainees in their care.

The film also showed footage of one guard tipping a vulnerable asylum seeker out of his bed. Another victim, who later won his claim for asylum, described shocking treatment as guards attempted to deport him.

A study made after the documentary was broadcast reveals has shown that most of the alleged assaults occur on the way to, or in, airports. Of the 35 cases currently being pursued by lawyers only one has resulted in an arrest. In two-thirds of cases police took no action.

Emma Ginn, of the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, told The Guardian newspaper this week: "I take calls nearly every day from asylum seekers who have been beaten up, mainly in transit between detention centres or during removal.î

A UK home office spokesperson said detainee custody officers were ìroutinely monitored and in the event of inappropriate behaviour remedial action taken.î The National Asylum Support Service has yet to respond to the allegations in the Oxfam-backed report in Scotland, but says it will do so.

The Churchesí Commission for Racial Justice and other church networks throughout Britain and Ireland have condemned the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, and the attempts by some politicians to turn them into political footballs.

Ekklesia is co-sponsoring a debate about immigration policy as the first event organised by the newly-formed Westminster Forum.

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