accessibility & help

Don’t “demonise” asylum seekers, warns British Red Cross

10 January 2014

The British Red Cross has warned against the misrepresentation of facts by some media outlets relating to a report on the provision of housing for asylum seekers.

The National Audit Office (NAO) today published a report on contracts awarded by the Home Office to security firms to house asylum seekers.

The system, known as Compass, aims to house 23,000 asylum seekers in the UK.

Irresponsible

As part of the NAO report, 30 visits were made to homes of asylum seekers. In around three cases evidence of electronics, such as mobile phones, was found, a sign of wealth according to some newspapers. 

Some publications have extrapolated this figure to claim that 2,000 asylum seekers are wrongly claiming government support.

Presenting the report’s findings in this way is irresponsible, according to Hugo Tristram, refugee services development officer at the British Red Cross.

“Asylum support is well below the lowest level of support received by a British national, in some cases as little as 54 per cent of income support. That’s £36.62 a week,” Hugo said.

"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."

Personal income

The Red Cross has poured scorn on the assertion that electronics are an indication of wealth, saying that mobile phones are an everyday necessity to most.

Asylum seekers especially need to keep in contact with their lawyer, the Home Office, friends and family.

The charity went on to warn that even in the unlikely event that a small number of asylum seekers have accumulated enough wealth to buy these items, electronic goods cannot be used as evidence of an income sufficient to meet housing and utility costs. 

Some asylum seekers arrive in the UK with money but they are in the minority, the charity said.

Not allowed to work

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work, so if they are found to be in employment the Home Office would have a responsibility to prevent them from working. 

Perversely, this renders them destitute and forces them back on to government support, the charity added. 

Hugo said: “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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