10 January 2014
For further information contact:
Lucy Keating 0207 877 7095 / LKeating@redcross.org.uk
On call mobile: 0771 0391703
The media’s take on the findings of the NAO report on COMPASS contracts for the provision of accommodation for asylum seekers, should not be taken at face value.
In the study’s entirety only 30 visits were made and in only around three cases were evidence of electronics found. To extrapolate this figure to claim 2,000 asylum seekers are wrongly claiming government support is irresponsible in the least.
Hugo Tristram, Refugee Services Development Officer at the British Red Cross said:
“Asylum support is well below the lowest level of support received by a British national, in some cases as little as 54% of income support. That’s £36.62 a week.
"No mention is made of the many thousands of asylum seekers and refugees at the end of the asylum process who are unable to access any form of support. Each year the British Red Cross assists over 6,000 such people who are not in receipt of government support and are living in abject destitution."
Some papers have reported that mobile phones are a sign of wealth yet this is no longer a realistic claim. Mobile phones are an everyday necessity to most and especially to this group of people who need to keep in contact with their lawyer, the Home Office, friends and family.
Even in the unlikely event that a small number of asylum seekers have managed to accumulate enough wealth to buy these items first hand, they can hardly be said to be evidence of an income sufficient to meet housing and utility costs - it would be draconian to make someone street homeless on the grounds that they had accumulated enough 'wealth' to purchase a television.
The Home Office position with respect to 'evidence of a personal income' is also somewhat ambiguous. Some arrive with money but they are few; asylum seekers are not allowed to work, so if they are found to be in employment the Home Office would, perversely, have a responsibility to prevent them from working thus rendering them destitute and forcing them back onto Home Office support.
Tristram continued: “We need to stop demonising this already vulnerable and marginalised group and remember our proud history of welcoming those fleeing persecution; the real criticism should be levelled at a flawed system that forces some of society’s most vulnerable to live in destitution for months and years on end. That is something we should all be ashamed of.”
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