The London Churches Refugee Fund raises money to give small grants to organisations assisting destitute refugees and asylum-seekers.
Getting a clear picture of the scope of destitution in the UK is difficult, though the experience is well recognised.
People seeking asylum are excluded from mainstream benefits and barred from working. While their claims are considered, they should receive 'Section 95' support. If their claim is rejected, they may be eligible for 'Section 4' support. In practice, many fall through the cracks and become destitute.
23,507 people applied for asylum in the UK in 2013, a tiny proportion of the millions displaced around the world. The largest numbers came from Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka and Syria. Applications from Syria were up by 69% on 2012 and those from Eritrea were up 89%.
Decisions in 2013: 17,647 initial decisions were made, of which 63% were refusals ; 32% were granted asylum and 4% were allowed to remain on other grounds.
8,293 appeals were decided, of which 25% were successful.
www.refugeecouncil.org.uk, Asylum Statistics
‘It has been estimated there are up to 500,000 refused asylum seekers in the UK. They become reliant on the good will of friends and support from faith groups and charities. In many cases they experience exploitation, overcrowded living conditions, street homelessness, physical and mental illnesses and malnourishment’
‘Not gone but forgotten’ British Red Cross June 2010
Some Reasons for Destitution
1. 'Many refused asylum seekers would rather remain destitute than apply for government support because they fear it will result in deportation'.
2. 'Many are unaware of their entitlement to free primary healthcare, or are anxious about contact with the authorities and therefore do not access health services'.
3. 'Most examples of illegal work involved low-skilled jobs, with low pay, long hours and poor working conditions, and a constant fear of being raided by immigration officials'.
'Coping with Destitution'. Oxfam, 2011
'In the UK many asylum-seeking and migrant children are living in extreme poverty for sustained periods of time. Children and families are unable to afford essentials such as food, clothing and medicines or even a place to live. During periods of destitution children and young people are exposed to danger, violence and abuse'.
ECRE bulletin 2012, presenting the Children's Society report 'I don't feel human'
Kharaz refugee camp