Monday, February 18, 2008

Why are we campaigning about the destitution of refused asylum seekers?

With so many campaign actions by the STAR network at the moment, particularly with Action Day just round the corner, here is a reminder of why are we campaigning in support of the Still Human Still Here campaign.

Each year around two-thirds of asylum applications in the UK are ultimately refused, including any appeal. With the exception of families with children under 18, financial support and accommodation is cut off after 21 days and at this point they are expected to leave the country voluntarily or be subject to removal.

In November 2006, Amnesty International and Refugee Action launched reports highlighting how UK Government policy on refused asylum seekers forces many into abject poverty in attempt to drive them out of the country. Research showed that there are tens of thousands of refused asylum seekers in the UK, living a hand to mouth existence, reliant on charity and not permitted to work. Many of them cannot be returned to their country of origin through no fault of their own and are living a life that relies primarily on the charity of others.

Find out more about why many refused asylum seekers are still here
Read the report by Refugee Action, The Destitution Trap
Read the report by Amnesty International, Down and Out in London

What is the Campaign calling for?

The Still Human Still Here campaign is dedicated to highlighting the plight of tens of thousands of refused asylum seekers who are being forced into abject poverty in an attempt to drive them out of the country.

Campaign supporters are calling on the Government to:

  • End the threat and use of destitution as a tool of Government policy against refused asylum seekers
  • Continue financial support and accommodation to refused asylum seekers as provided during the asylum process and grant permission to work until such a time as they have left the UK or have been granted leave to remain
  • Continue to provide full access to health care and education throughout the same period*

Key messages of the campaign
  • Over 280,000 people are living in abject poverty in the UK simply because they have been refused asylum; they are not permitted to work and they no longer receive any financial support.
  • Many refused asylum seekers have protection needs but have been failed by the asylum system. The policy of starving people into returning in these cases (and to countries like Zimbabwe and Iraq) is inhumane and ineffective.
  • Last year a committee of MPs concluded it would take between 10 and 18 years to return all refused asylum seekers to their countries of origin at the current rate of removal. The Government cannot afford to remove everyone who has been refused asylum, so it is deliberately making them destitute in order to force them to leave the UK.
  • Where individuals cannot be returned safely, through no fault of their own, they should be granted a form of temporary leave that allows them to work and access basic support. This will allow them to contribute to the UK economy and society until they are able to return.

STAR believes that everyone has the right to food, clothing, housing and medical care, regardless of their immigration status. It is morally acceptable for governments to control their borders. It is morally acceptable for governments to return people refused asylum when they do not have protection needs. But we believe that it is morally unacceptable for governments to force people into poverty as the cheapest method of trying to make them leave the UK. The Government has an obligation to allow everyone in the UK to access the basic necessities of life, and people refused asylum are no exception. They are still human, and they are still here.

The experiences of refused asylum seekers

“The barrister got my file in the evening before the tribunal. He didn’t know my name, hadn’t read my case and missed so many papers. I saw my life slipping away through an administrative error.”
22 year-old man from Somalia

“Destitution – it sounds as if people have been put in the bin and are scavenging. It makes me sound like an animal. Perhaps that is what I am now. All I am.”
67 year-old woman from Zimbabwe

“I don’t want to stay in the UK. As soon as it changes at home I am going. But at the moment I cant go back.”
36 year-old man from DRC

“I have no status, no money and no home. Every day I have to go to friends begging for money. Sometimes I sleep in the mosque or spend the whole night in the street. I cover myself with my coat”.
24 year-old man from Zimbabwe

Campaign Supporters

Amnesty International UK, Archbishops Council of the Church of England, Asylum Aid, Asylum Rights Campaign, Asylum Support Appeals Project, Asylum Support and Immigration Resource Team, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Church Action on Poverty, Citizens Advice, Immigration Law Practitioners Association, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Migrants Resource Centre, Refugee Action, Refugee Council, Refugee Legal Centre, Scottish Refugee Council, Student Action for Refugees (STAR), The Children’s Society, Welsh Refugee Council

What is the Still Human Still Here campaign doing?
  • Developing a constructive dialogue with Home Office Ministers and officials offering alternative remedies that the Government can take to avoid destitution
  • Highlighting the impact of destitution and lack of access to education, health and other services on refused asylum seekers to decision makers
  • Building a groundswell of opinion against destitution through public campaigning activities (through grassroots activities, public endorsement from community organisations, national and local media coverage etc)
  • Recruiting high profile and effective communicators as champions for the campaign (such as frontline professionals, sports people, actors, musicians, academics, former asylum seekers)

What the STAR network is doing
  • Raising awareness about the campaign with other students through campaign stalls, speaker events, DVD screenings, photo exhibitions…
  • Encouraging students to show their support for Still Human Still Here by signing the petition
  • Letting their local MP know about the campaign and how they can support it
  • Demonstrating solidarity with refused and destitute asylum seekers by holding sleep outs, particularly on March 5th, when STAR and Amnesty students will team up for Student Action Day.

Find out more about student campaigning events and Action Day

Posted by STAR team on 18/02/2008 at 12:10 PM