accessibility & help

Destitution on the rise among refugees and asylum seekers as further cuts loom

9 May 2016

destitute asylum seeker

More than 3,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the UK struggled to get by in the first three months of this year, according to British Red Cross figures.

Red Cross destitution services provide food parcels, clothing and small amounts of emergency cash. The number of people supported by the service has risen by more than 10 per cent since the same period in 2015, when 2,975 people were seen.

The Red Cross has warned that government plans will plunge even more families into poverty. The government intends to remove support payments for refused asylum seeking families, regardless of whether or not they can safely leave the UK.

Every age group affected

Thirty-seven per cent (1,253) of those assisted by the Red Cross between January and April 2016 were from Eritrea, Sudan, Iran or Syria. All four are among the world’s top refugee producing countries due to conflict or political persecution.

Destitute refugees and asylum seekers are found across the UK, with the Red Cross supporting people most frequently in Leicester, London and Birmingham.

The youngest person supported was not even a year old. The oldest was 91.

Twelve per cent of those we supported had been granted refugee status by the Home Office.

"The UK can do better than this"

Alex Fraser, director of refugee support at the Red Cross, said: “These figures show that people who seek safety in the UK after fleeing conflict and persecution are increasingly at risk of becoming destitute in the most literal sense of the word.

“We frequently see families who rely on our support to be able to feed and clothe their children.

“We also know that we don’t see everyone who is destitute, so the true figures are likely to be even higher.

“The UK can do better than this and do more for those fleeing unimaginable situations in countries such as Syria and Iraq.

“It’s clear that the UK’s asylum system can leave anyone destitute – whether you are young or old, fleeing the conflict in Syria or political persecution in Eritrea, have just arrived having made the journey through Europe or are a refugee who Home Office accepts to be in need of protection. This shows no sign of slowing down.

“Cutting off support, as the Immigration Bill proposes to do, is a red line that should not be crossed.”

The Immigration Bill

The Immigration Bill, which is currently moving through Parliament, is expected to further curtail levels of asylum support.

Proposals include the removal of statutory asylum support (Section 95) for asylum seekers with children who have exhausted their appeal rights.

Refused asylum seekers will also lose the right to appeal decisions by the Home Office to refuse or discontinue their support. This is despite the fact that a majority of appeals (61 per cent) are successful.

This looks likely to force families who are unable to leave the country into poverty and destitution.

The Red Cross is the largest provider of support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. Our destitution services helped over 9,000 people in 2015.

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