Saturday, March 31, 2007

'Degrading and inhumane' - the UK asylum system

A couple of months ago I was challenged here and here to provide evidence for my assertion that some children coming to this country as refugees face at best, uncertainty, and at worst, detention, neglect and abandonment. I accepted the challenge here.

And provided the evidence with this post. And this one.

Now there's further confirmation that the UK asylum system is ruthless in its treatment of the most vulnerable members of our society with a new report published yesterday by the Joint Committee of Human Rights (a cross party group of MPs and members of the House of Lords - hardly a bunch of radical lefties).

The report covers the following:

  • Principles of human rights
  • Access to financial support and accommodation
  • Provision of healthcare
  • Treatment of children
  • Detention and removal
  • Treatment by the media

They looked at the Government's asylum policy over the last 10 years.
They examined examples of detention being used for children, pregnant women and seriously ill people.
They looked at an example of a dying refugee being deported to a country where he received no palliative care.
And heard of pregnant women being denied proper care here in the UK.

Want some quotes?

These are from the report:

'Degrading and inhumane.'

'No human being should have to suffer such appalling treatment.'

'The system is overly complex, poorly administered and offers inadequate information and advice about the support to which people are entitled, in some cases denying any support whatsoever to people who are desperate and destitute.'

And this is from Andrew Dismore MP: (He's strongly in favour of the war in Iraq - again, hardly a raving radical.)

'Innocent children should never be detained - alternatives must be developed. The system of asylum seeker support is a confusing mess and the policy of enforced destitution must cease.'

A large part of the problem is that the system automatically assumes all applications are bogus - a case of guilty unless proved innocent.
Couple this with the pressure to keep figures down and the result is inevitable.
The application, which may be from desperate people seeking refuge from unspeakable horror, is more often than not turned down.
Sometimes they are deported in spite of the evidence that their lives will be at risk.
Sometimes they stay here to appeal.
But if their initial application has been turned down, they are entitled to no benefits of any kind.
They are left to rely on charities and frequently end up sleeping on the streets.
Many of them want to work. They want to contribute. They don't want to rely on handouts. And they certainly don't want to be homeless and hungry.

They are being given no choice.

One last quote. This is from Robina Qureshi of Positive Action in Housing:

'The treatment these people receive amounts to them being tortured in a country which they have come to because they are fleeing persecution from their own.'

This is being done in our name.
I hang my head in shame ...

There are organisations where you can make a real difference to individual lives.
Look at this for example.
You can find further links here.


Anonymous said...

fizzzzzzzz . . . . . .

Debi said...

And your point is???

Unknown said...

Well fizzzzzz, really.

Took a while to read and digest this Debi. Once again thank you - informative and thought provoking. This really is just the tip of the iceberg, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this -I heard the story of the Malawian children being supported by Dr Banardoes - (a hot bed of red radicals hey) - who are threatened with deportation, on Radio 4 this morning. The problem is that they are all individual cases, some good some bad - but no one has the time to hear them..

Debi said...

Too true, Mutley. It's also true that there will inevitably be those prepared to exploit the situation for their own profit.

The point I've made before (and will continue to do so) is that I'd prefer to risk being exploited by 100 than potentially miss one genuine case ...

granny p said...

Yeah and it's all done by ours. And all - mostly - out of fear of the whipper-uppers otherwise known as the tabloid press. Shame-making. Thank god for the odd good judge.

DBA Lehane said...

Okay...late coming to this one, and I would have let it pass me by but just to point a couple of points:

1. When I challenged you originally to back up your was simply on the fact that you alleged foreign minors were left to live alone and fend for themselves in the UK. You've never proven this and neither does this report.

2. I don't think there is anyone who will accept that the situation if perfect or faultless. But for all the good intentions on the matter, no one has yet come up with a viable workable solution that adequately considers and safeguards BOTH sides of the problem.

3. The suggestion that all FAILED Asylum Seekers should be allowed to work and receive benefits is dangerous and absurd to the exteme. Such a measure will attract every economic migrant in the world to target the UK, because, "hey, even if I fail with a bogus claim I can still work and get support". If an asylum application is deemed bogus then the person has no right to be in the UK...why should the taxpayer then support these people?

Anonymous said...

DBA Lehane, there are many flaws in the asylum system that is 'degrading and inhumane' to many African single mothers, most of whom escaping torture, rape etc who usually have a few hours to tell their whole story to, in many cases, a male Immigration officer and a male Interpreter;

Unaccompanied Minors - I have only ever come across one young guy who presented himself as an Unaccompanied Minor. The young man told the Home Office that he was 15 Years old and they questioned his age, simply because they didn't believe a 15 year old could arrive in the UK alone. They said he must be 18 Years old and refused to support him until he agreed. The young guy had Iraqi documents proving his date of birth and had the characteristics of most 15 year olds I know. Whilst the HO was deciding whether or not to translate his documents, he was simply left with no food, money or shelter. A number of charitable organisations supported him. The dilemma the organisations faced was that they believed he was under 16, and should they allow him to live with someone who had not been police checked? Eventually they had no other choice and after few days found a college lecturer who was willing to assist him.

2 months on, his documents were finally translated and he was given accommodation to live in.

The Home Office’s decision making is extremely poor, with a some families receiving positive decisions after years and years of living without being able to work, being told where to live, having to report like criminals every week to immigration reporting centres, spending time locked up in detention centres, not allowed (until recently in Scotland) to attend University like others, unless they paid overseas student fees, being at the end of many vicious lies and rumours from the media as well as being regarded as ‘scum’ by many UK citizens, politicians and others.

In Glasgow, there are 1,100 families who have been refused by the Home Office. 80% of them have lived here for over 5 years. Many have children who have done exceptionally well in school or college, despite the trauma of living with the fear of being detained or deported. Now the new Scottish government has asked for powers to grant these families ILR. If they live in scotland and contribute to scotland, then why won’t an English Government allow it?

Debi said...

Jamie - thank you so much for your thoughtful contribution to this debate.

I will return to this subject as soon as I can find the time but meanwhile your comments are much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to take so long to check up on your blog again Debi, and thank you for giving more people an opportunity to discuss this issue.

If you check out paih wordpress this week - - you will find how one particular little girl has been treated by the Home Office.

Take care, Jamie

Debi said...

Thanks, Jamie. I feel a new post coming on ...