Red Cross report reveals plight of asylum seekers trapped in destitution
A new report from the British Red Cross has exposed how refused asylum seekers are trapped in a life of destitution in Scotland.
The number of destitute refugees and asylum seekers helped by the charity in Glasgow increased from 326 in 2014 to 820 in 2016.
According to the charity, the new figures to “some extent” reflected an overall increase in the number of people claiming protection in Scotland, including asylum seekers from Syria.
It has accused the UK government of making the asylum process “increasingly difficult”.
The Red Cross report ‘Can’t Stay, Can’t Go’ identifies a small group of asylum seekers who have been refused permission to remain in the UK, yet cannot leave.
This could be because they lack documents such as passports, their nationality is disputed, or because there is no viable route back to their country of origin.
The report finds that with no right to work and limited financial support, life for this group is bleak.
Most rely on friends and charity to survive and spend extended periods of time homeless and destitute.
Mike Adamson, British Red Cross chief executive, said: “Having no permission to be in the UK, but no way home, means being stuck in a permanent state of limbo and often living hand to mouth.
“Some of the individuals interviewed in this report have been in this situation for years.
“No one should be left destitute if they remain in the UK due to factors beyond their control.”
Nearly half of the 15 refused asylum seekers interviewed for the report had considered suicide.
Others reported chronic stress, insomnia, anxiety and depression and most felt they have no control over their life.
All had no choice but to remain in the UK despite having sought to comply with everything asked of them by the Home Office.
The Red Cross is appealing to the UK government to grant discretionary leave to remain, including a right to work, to fully refused asylum seekers who have been taking steps to leave the UK for more than 12 months.
It argues that the move would spare a small number of people from being left destitute for extended periods of time.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and those seeking refuge have access to a range of advice and support in the UK.
“Migrant Help offers asylum seekers access to online literature and both telephone and face-to-face advice.
“Outreach sessions are held around the UK, including in Scotland where have a well-established presence.
“It is only right that the service refers asylum seekers looking for legal advice to qualified solicitors who are cleared to handle immigration matters.
“Those who do not need our help should leave the country rather than being supported by UK taxpayers.”
While immigration and asylum policy is reserved to the UK government, the Scottish Government can provide support to asylum seekers under devolved functions, such as education, social care and health.
The Scottish Parliament’s equalities and human rights committee (EHRC) has launched an inquiry into destitution amongst asylum seekers - which will publish its findings and recommendations in April.
Equalities secretary Angela Constance said she hoped the inquiry would “shine a light” on the issue of destitution and asylum in Scotland.