Thousands of rejected asylum seekers have been abandoned by the government and are sleeping rough in parks, public toilets and churches, leading to record levels of destitution across the country, according a report published today.
The study, by Amnesty International and Refugee Action, found that a growing number of failed asylum seekers are remaining in the UK without any financial or medical support. Writing in today’s Guardian, representatives of nine of the UK’s leading charities said this had led to widespread poverty, with thousands of people being "left without a roof over their heads and without food to eat".
Yesterday Kate Allen, director of Amnesty UK, said the government was deliberately using destitution in an attempt to drive refused asylum seekers out of Britain. "Forcing people into destitution as an attempt to drive them out of the country is backfiring badly and vulnerable people are suffering. Refused asylum seekers are being reduced to penniless poverty - forced to sleep in parks, public toilets and phone boxes, to go without vital medicines even after suffering torture, and to relying on the charity of friends or drop-in shelters to survive."
Asylum seekers’ support is cut off 21 days after a final refusal is made on their claim, and although there is limited support available after that point, people have to agree to return to their country of origin to access it. However, the report says that many failed asylum seekers are unable to return either because it is impossible to travel to their home country or because they fear they would be tortured or killed when they get there.
The National Audit Office has estimated the backlog of people remaining after their applications were rejected at between 155,000 and 283,500.
A Home Office spokesman said: "Where people have failed to establish a claim to asylum, our view is that they should go home. We accept that there will be some failed asylum seekers who are unable to leave immediately. In these circumstances we will provide accommodation and non-cash support under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999."