4 August 2017
Thousands of refugees and asylum seekers are being left destitute in the UK without the support they are entitled to from government.
According to British Red Cross figures, more than 8,800 refugees and asylum seekers were destitute in the UK in the first half of 2017.
Between January and July this year, the charity’s destitution services gave food, clothing and small amounts of emergency cash to thousands of people who came to the UK after fleeing conflict or persecution.
These figures reflect the number of people supported by British Red Cross destitution services.
The true number of destitute refugees and asylum seekers in Britain is likely to be higher, but conclusive figures on this do not exist as they are not collected by the Home Office.
Alex Fraser, director of refugee support at the British Red Cross, said: “These figures show that refugees and asylum seekers frequently continue to suffer even after reaching a safe country.
“They are forgotten or let down by an asylum system that is too often inflexible, cumbersome and difficult to access.
“Families who have been forced to flee unimaginable situations in countries such as Eritrea or Syria are left reliant, often for significant periods of time, on charity for food, clothing, and other basics needed to survive.
“Against the backdrop of a global refugee crisis which shows no signs of slowing down, it is essential that people seeking protection are able to live with dignity and not destitution.
“The UK can and should do better than this.”
The Red Cross supported large numbers of people from some of the worst conflict areas in the world. The most common country of origin among those helped was Eritrea, followed by Iran, Nigeria, Sudan and Syria.
Destitute refugees and asylum seekers were supported at 50 sites across the UK, with the Red Cross seeing people most frequently in London, Leicester and Glasgow.
Nearly 1,500 people were given food parcels while 188 people were provided with baby packs.
Just over one in five (22 per cent) of those seen had been recognised as refugees, and thus have a legal right to live and work in the UK.
Around 42 per cent were asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their initial application for international protection.
Red Cross response to the Immigration Act
The Red Cross has warned that plans under the Immigration Act to restrict financial support could leave even more asylum seekers in poverty, with families with children hit hardest.
Families with children currently receive Section 95 support (accommodation and £37 a week for each member of the family) to cover their basic living costs.
This will be repealed for refused asylum seeking families under the Immigration Act.
The Red Cross has been asking for pregnant women and families with children to continue receiving Section 95 support, regardless of immigration status.
• Find out more about our work with refugees and asylum seekers.