Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 is not simply making an asylum seeker destitute. For destitution, itself, opens up a ‘failed’ refugee to yet more racism, indignity and uncertainty.
On Friday 16 April, Ali Mohammed Sadegh, a destitute Iranian asylum seeker was viciously beaten and stabbed by a group of White men in a racist attack in Glasgow. They held a knife to his throat, called him a Black, ‘f***ing refugee bastard’ and demanded money. He handed over £40 – all he had in the world. They then stabbed him seven times in the back and kicked him repeatedly. He was left on the streets for dead. Discharged from hospital five days later, Ali had absolutely nowhere to go. Fortunately, Positive Action in Housing (PAIH), a Scottish NGO, has allowed Ali to sleep in the back of its offices.
Ali has been homeless and penniless for seven months, as result of Section 55. He was made homeless after his asylum claim was refused and he could neither work nor claim benefits. as a result, he has attempted to take his own life and a psychiatrist called to his assess him, recommended that because of his mental health problems, he should not be left to sleep out on the streets. Since he was forced out onto the street, Ali has been to other state agencies and charities, but he did not qualify for assistance.
But where was Ali to go? At the time of the attack, he was waiting for a night bus – not that he had anyone to visit. Like many other ‘failed’ asylum seekers, he was riding a bus as a way of keeping warm and off the streets of Glasgow.
In his own words, he told his story to PAIH: ‘I had to leave Iran because of persecution and human rights abuses, and came to Britain to seek refuge and human rights. Instead I lost my basic human rights, my home, benefits, my family. I was denied the right to seek work and sustain myself through my asylum claim. I have been forced to use buses as accommodation…. There are charities which help stray animals but there is nothing for people in my position. My friend, an asylum seeker, who has been kindly letting me sleep occasionally on his floor in his NASS flat, has now been issued with an eviction notice as well. I want to leave Britain. I cannot go to Iran but I will leave Britain and find a country where I can try to seek work and settle myself. I was persecuted in Iran for my political beliefs. Here I was persecuted for being a refugee. What I suffered at the hands of the UK is a persecution policy not a refugee policy.’