A report seeking to assess levels of destitution experienced by asylum seekers in Leeds has shown that figures have increased substantially over the past eighteen months.
The report, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, was intended to measure progress following the original 2006 survey for their Inquiry into Destitution Among Refused Asylum Seekers. The latest survey highlights a significant rise in the number of people living in destitution and the length. Measures of destitution indicate that the problem has intensified since 2006. Particularly alarming is the rise in children recorded as destitute: from thirteen in 2006 to fifty-one in the recent survey.
The research, informed by interviews with agency workers, service users and clients, draws attention to the inadequacies and limitations of practices already in place in the asylum process. The 2008 survey benefits from additional interviews with local and strategic organisations.
Reasons for this increase of those living in destitution are many. Changes in the asylum application system have resulted in longer periods of destitution for those seeking asylum, particularly for those waiting for Section 4 support. The New Asylum Model (NAM), piloted in Leeds from 2006 and since rolled out nationally, was intended to speed up the process. However procedural delays have made provision of support more problematic, resulting in failure to reach many who are entitled to it. According to the report, the introduction of NAM has actually resulted in more pressure on local agencies. This increase in the number of visits, which have more than doubled since 2006, not only impacts upon the quality of service that these agencies can provide, but has negative effects on the mental health of asylum seekers due to stress.
The report makes proposals to improve the situation, and repeats the recommendations made in the initial report:
- Of paramount importance is that the United Kingdom Borders Agency (UKBA) and Social Services ensure that no child is left destitute.
- They should also ensure that both refused and successful asylum seekers, as well as those still in the system, are provided for. The Section 4 application process should be improved and an authority should take responsibility for an individual at every point.
- It is recommended that the application process and the systems it adopts should encourage self-sufficiency. The report authors argue that NAM represses independence, which could be alleviated by making the process longer, allowing asylum seekers some degree of autonomy in their applications.
Whilst promoting an individual’s independence however, Government and charitable trusts should allocate more resources to local voluntary sector agencies, so that they are better equipped to deal with the growing numbers of asylum seekers who are left destitute. Although this survey maps out the current state of destitute asylum seekers in Leeds, thus identifying local patterns and problems, the proposals it makes to ameliorate the situation are relevant and applicable to all areas in the UK where destitution is a lived experience.
Download a briefing paper by Jon Burnett at PAFRAS on: Racism, destitution and asylum (pdf file, 72kb)
Download a briefing paper by Jon Burnett at PAFRAS on: Section 4 Support (pdf file, 58kb)