26 October 2017
Thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK are at risk of becoming isolated and lonely because they live in poverty.
New figures show the British Red Cross came to the aid of 11,741 destitute refugees and asylum seekers between January and September this year. The charity provided a variety of support including food, clothing and small amounts of emergency cash.
The Red Cross is releasing the new figures as part of the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, which is raising awareness of refugees and asylum seekers throughout October.
Safe but lonely
Alex Fraser, our director of refugee support, said: “These figures show that destitution is a common reality when seeking asylum in the UK.
“Every day, we see how this not only leaves people reliant on charity or people’s goodwill to survive, but also makes it impossible to afford the day-to-day activities which allow most of us to keep up friendships and feel socially involved – whether that is a coffee or the bus fare for a trip into town.
“Because most refugees and asylum seekers are only too grateful to be in a place where they are safe, they often don’t talk about being lonely.
“But we know that fleeing your home and arriving in a new country can be very isolating, and that this is something that affects people of all ages and backgrounds, immediately and years after arriving in the UK.”
Adapting to a new country
Many refugees cannot afford to pay for transport and social activities. This leaves them isolated from the communities they live in.
Adapting to life in a new country is often more difficult for refugees and asylum seekers because they are separated from family and close friends. They do not always speak English – making it difficult to know where to turn for support.
The new figures show that destitute refugees and asylum seekers were supported at 50 sites across the UK. The Red Cross saw most people in London, Glasgow and Leicester.
Large numbers came from some of the worst conflict areas in the world or countries known for political persecution. The most common nationality among those supported was Eritrean, followed by Iranian, Nigerian, Sudanese and Syrian.
At least one in five of those seen had been recognised as refugees. This means they have a legal right to live and work in the UK.
Forty two per cent were asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their initial application for international protection.
Thirteen per cent of those supported were refused asylum seekers. Refused asylum seekers have a right to submit a fresh application if new evidence supporting their fear of returning home comes to light. However, some are forced to remain in the UK due to documentation problems.
Immigration Act to hit children hard
The Red Cross has warned that government plans to restrict asylum support could leave even more people in poverty.,Families with children will be hit particularly hard under the Immigration Act.
Whereas refugees have permission to work and claim benefits in the UK, asylum seekers do not. They rely on asylum support (also known as Section 95 support) which is approximately £37 a week.
Refused asylum seekers are not entitled to asylum support unless they can demonstrate exceptional circumstances. These include a health problem that prevents them from leaving the country.
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 is due to 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 their immigration status. It has also recommended that asylum support should be increased to at least 70 per cent of Job Seeker’s Allowance.