UK is failing asylum seekers, claim Sunderland researchers

THOUSANDS of asylum seekers are living in destitution for years claims a report by the University of Sunderland.

dr fiona cuthill

Dr Fiona Cuthill, public health senior lecturer at the University of Sunderland

The report reveals the problem is being caused in the UK by failures in local and central governments to address the problem in the support system and the report has been sent to MPs and charities throughout the country.

Wearside researchers analysed people living in destitute conditions and found this is a long-term problem, instead of a short-term phase of homelessness.

In 2005 it was estimated that 283,500 people in the UK who came into the asylum process were living in poverty, some for more than six years, and it is believed the number has continued to grow.

The report, Between Destitution and a Hard Place: Finding Strength to Survive Refusal From the Asylum System, said those fleeing persecution in their home country live in constant fear and anxiety about their situation.

Several of those featured in the report had become mentally ill while some were relieved to be diagnosed with illnesses because it meant they would receive help.

One man lost the use of his hand when the owner of a restaurant – where he was working illegally – refused to take him to hospital following an accident and another told how he was put out of a van in a North East alley and left to fend for himself.

Dr Fiona Cuthill, a public health senior lecturer at the University of Sunderland, led the report alongside two members of the Sudanese community in the UK, Omer Siddiq Abdalla and Khalid Bashir.

She said: “Rather than denying that destitution following the asylum process exists, or using it as a tool to force people back to their country of origin, both central and local government need to harness the strength and resilience shown by these men and women to enhance both local communities and wider society.

“To give them the right to work would be a start. It is only then, that we can maybe say with some confidence that the UK is pursuing every opportunity to promote human rights and political and economic freedom.”

The report revealed the daily struggle to find food and shelter and urges the Government to improve recognition and financial support for community and voluntary organisations which support the asylum seekers.

One of the key recommendations of the report was to allow those waiting to hear their case for asylum the right to work, subject to certain conditions, because being unable to earn money often leads to crime and exploitation and demeans the dignity of those waiting for a decision.

Please see under Resources on the website for a copy of the report together with other asylum destitution research reports.


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