Poverty amongst refugees and asylum seekers in the UK

The University of Birmingham have published a report: “Poverty amongst refugees and asylum seekers in the UK”. The report finds that, for many, the asylum system is a source of vulnerability to poverty and destitution. The report concludes that reducing the incidence of poverty would improve the quality and fairness of the asylum process and would lead to improved refugee health, wellbeing and integration. You can read the full report here.

Nicky Road reviews the publication on behalf of the Institute of Race Relations:

A new Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) Working Paper has been published which analyses the link between poverty and refugees and asylum seekers in the UK from the 1980s to the present. Focusing on three main groups: asylum seekers; refugees; and refused asylum seekers, it also examines the impact on women, children, unaccompanied asylum seeking minors, families, elderly people, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) people, disabled people and members of cultural and religious minorities.

dignity not destitution1

The working paper looks at the evidence on the livelihoods of asylum seekers and refugees, through issues such as their access to asylum support; the difficulties with their refugee status determination, their right to work and survival strategies and the difficulties accessing the labour market. It examines the reduction in support over the years – currently asylum support rates have fallen to between 50-60 per cent of Income Support levels – whilst refugees are not subject to the curtailing of rights and are entitled to the same benefits as British citizens. However, with the reduction in English as an Additional Language (EAL) classes and other support systems refugees too live in poverty and isolation. The review discusses the impact of housing deprivation and insecurity experienced by refugees and asylum seekers as well as their health status and their access to healthcare.

Academic evidence supports their view that creating enforced destitution and poverty is a planned outcome of public policy to disincentivise asylum seekers who remain and to act as a deterrent to those that may wish to come to the UK.

The working paper also reviews the UK government’s dispersal policy, as well as examining issues such as homelessness, especially amongst young asylum seekers and the role of NGOs.

This working paper is a very useful summary of the evidence and data produced over the years, showing the effects of government policy changes. It shows how the numbers seeking asylum are directly linked to political conflicts across the world. It also provides clear evidence of actual numbers and powerfully counteracts the misinformation that is promoted by those hostile to the view that the UK should continue to honour its UN obligations.



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