The London Churches Refugee Fund raises money to give small grants to organisations assisting destitute refugees and asylum-seekers.
'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'
LCRF has one simple objective: to relieve destitution among refugees and asylum seekers in London
Asylum is protection given by a country to someone fleeing from persecution in their own country. According to Article 1 of the 1951 United Nations Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is a person who:
"… owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."
People seeking asylum in the UK 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.
29,380 applications for asylum were made in the UK in 2018, a tiny proportion of the millions displaced around the world. Asylum seekers represent less than 5% of total migration into the UK.
The largest numbers in 2018 came from Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Eritrea, Albania and Sudan. These figures do not include resettlements of Syrians under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.
Two thirds of applications in 2018 were refused at initial hearing. Around three quarters are likely to appeal but historically only around a quarter of appeals are successful.
‘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
Very often, destitution results from bureaucratic difficulties or mistakes and from those claiming asylum simply not knowing how to navigate our complex and hostile system. Legal Aid is not generally available to help them.
Oxfam also identified some other reasons:
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
Kharaz refugee camp