UK

Refused asylum seekers destitute says British Red Cross

A detention centre for asylum seekers
Image caption Some asylum seekers in the UK are kept in detention centres

Thousands of people refused asylum are living in "shameful" destitution in the UK, the British Red Cross has warned.

The charity says those at the end of the appeals process are denied employment, made homeless, refused healthcare and rely on handouts.

A survey suggested of the thousands they helped last year, 87% often lived on one meal a day.

Immigration minister Damian Green said the government is committed to finding new ways to improve the current system.

'Depth of suffering'

The British Red Cross helped more than 11,600 destitute asylum seekers in the UK last year, and this number is rising.

Its report, Not Gone But Forgotten, calls for a right to work until an applicant is either removed or granted leave to remain, and an entitlement to healthcare.

Chief executive Nicholas Young said: "We are very concerned about the large number of refused asylum seekers that come to us, relying on Red Cross food parcels and the basics for survival, such as sleeping bags and clothes."

He added that anyone fleeing persecution should be treated in a way that maintains their dignity until they are granted leave to remain or are removed from the UK.

The Rev Dr Nicholas Sagovsky, Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey, backed the charity's report, saying there is "no question" about the "depth of suffering".

The British Red Cross says its emergency support includes food vouchers, and parcels, toiletries, travel expenses, clothing and accommodation.

It estimates some 200,000 refused asylum seekers are living in the UK, with a tenth of those dependent on handouts.

Refused asylum seekers unable to immediately return to their home country can apply for limited support called "Section 4".

But they must be taking steps to leave the UK or be appealing against the reason for their refusal to qualify.

The British Red Cross says delays in receiving Section 4 have also left many destitute.

Damian Green says: "The government is committed to exploring new ways of improving the current asylum system.

"The UK Border Agency provides support to asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute until a decision on their application is made.

"However, when the independent courts have decided that an asylum seeker does not need international protection, support is discontinued and we expect them to return home voluntarily."

The charity surveyed 101 refused asylum seekers for its report.

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