The Plight of Asylum Seekers

A refugee is a person who is recognised by the government as having a fear of being persecuted in their country for reasons of…

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership of a particular group
  • Political Opinion

Usually, when someone flees from their country and arrives in the UK they have to claim asylum in order to be granted refugee status.  An Asylum Seeker is someone who is still waiting for the decision to be made as to whether they will be granted refugee status or not.  Asylum Seekers are not economic migrants coming to the UK through choice or to look for work.  They are fleeing from grave danger in their home country, have often been tortured, imprisoned or threatened and experienced a great deal of trauma on their journey to the UK.  Everyone has the right to seek asylum and contrary to what the media often report, there is no such thing as a bogus asylum seeker or an illegal asylum seeker.  In 2013 23,507 asylum seekers entered the UK.  The total amount of immigrants in the UK in 2012 was 526,000 therefore asylum seekers only counted for 4.5% of total immigration.  Overall, the population of pending asylum cases, refugees and stateless persons living in the UK was 149,330 at the end of 2013 which was 0.23% of the total population.

When someone first arrives in the UK and claims asylum there are provided with support from the British government.  They are given accommodation which may be anywhere in the UK plus £36.62 a week.  They do not have permission to work and must rely on state benefits to survive.  However, they receive around half of what a British citizen would be entitled to on income support.  If someone’s asylum claim is refused then their support is stopped and they are told they should make plans to return to their home country.

Reasons for Refusal

A person’s asylum claim can be refused for many different reasons.  A refusal does not necessarily means that it is safe for someone to return to their home country.  Someone may be refused because they do not have enough evidence to support their story or because there have been miscommunications during their interviews due to poor translation.  Over 25% of asylum refusals are overturned on appeal which shows that there are often errors made by the Home Office when they first review someone’s case.

Destitution Amongst Asylum Seekers

Once someone’s claim has been refused any support or benefits from the government are withdrawn, even though they have a right to appeal the decision and submit fresh evidence to support their claim.  People are therefore forced to sofa surf, or sleep on the streets  because they fear for their lives if they were to return home.  This situation can be very damaging for their physical and mental health and it’s also extremely difficult for them to progress with their asylum case or search for new evidence when they have no fixed address.  Refused asylum seekers become trapped in destitution and cannot see a way to escape from this situation.  Exact figures for destitute asylum seekers are unknown as often people would rather remain invisible as they fear being deported.  However, in 2009, the London School of Economics estimated that there were around 500,000 refused asylum seekers in the UK and none of these would be receiving any state support at all.