Inquiry highlights destitution of asylum seekers caused by government policy

By staff writers
March 28, 2007

An independent inquiry into destitution amongst people refused asylum has exposed the 'appalling and inhumane' conditions created by Government policy.

The report for the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust called on the government to do more for the "invisible" people refused sanctuary and who often slip through the "tattered safety net".

The Inquiry was chaired by Kate Adie, and included Conservative Vice chair Sayeeda Warsi and writer Julian Baggini. Its report is called ‘Moving on: From destitution to contribution’ and will be launched today (Wed 28 March) at the House of Commons.

The inquiry is based on a survey of people refused asylum living in Leeds where researchers found that 1 in 4 had slept rough and a third had been destitute for a year or more. Many were suffering grave social and health problems and some were wrestling with thoughts of suicide.

Revd Canon Kathryn Fitzsimons, Urban Officer for the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, said: “It is Christians and churches that are picking up the pieces from the Government's policy. We have ended up providing the food, friendship, and shelter for the people refused asylum. This report exposes the desperate detail of how vulnerable people are left destitute.”

Niall Cooper, National Coordinator of Church Action on Poverty, said: “The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust inquiry is another expose of how Government policy is pushing thousands of people in abject poverty. For the last few years our Living Ghosts campaign has been seeking to ensure the principle of "work for those who can, support for those who can't" should include all people on these islands, which includes people refused asylum. We are pleased that such a considered and respected Inquiry as this has called on the Government to “provide a revocable license to work pending asylum decision and up to the point where people refused asylum can realistically return home”.

In 2005 The Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, the Bishop of Sheffield, and the Catholic Bishop of Leeds gave their backing to a statement that said it was "inhuman and unacceptable" that some asylum seekers are left homeless and destitute by government policies.

However Home Office minister Joan Ryan insisted the asylum system "is a fair one".

"It ensures that support is available to someone claiming asylum from the time they arrive in the UK until the outcome of their claim is determined," she said.

"But it is not right to ask the UK taxpayer to fund - potentially indefinitely - those who choose to remain when it is open to them to return to a home country that has been found safe for them to live in."

She welcomed "the vital contribution made by migration and migrant workers to the UK economy", but added that people refused asylum should not be granted working rights.

"Our asylum system is there to offer a safe haven to those in genuine need of protection," she stressed.

"To confuse the two would send out the wrong message to those who may try to come here without genuine cause and would lead to a surge in abusive claims."

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