A new report, by the London-based Migrants Resource Centre into the effects of current asylum laws on the living conditions of asylum seekers, is a much-needed tool for those working in the field.
Researchers, who questioned fifty asylum-seeker users of the London centre about their living conditions, provide a snapshot of the daily humiliations would-be refugees have to endure. The majority of those interviewed had lived with uncertainty about their asylum claims for over three years, some waiting over six – all the time in limbo, unable to access basic services and necessary provisions.
The varying types of accommodation asylum seekers are provided with is indicative of the inconsistencies of the dispersal system. Some of those interviewed were able to access National Asylum Support Service (NASS) accommodation and had been allocated bed and breakfast accommodation or hostels. But others were living on the charity of friends and some were destitute or sleeping in churches.
The report provides an insight into the way asylum seekers are treated by the state. They described the distress caused by being constantly moved by NASS, with twenty asylum seekers reporting being moved at least four times and others reporting thirteen and fourteen different moves. At least ten of those interviewed were not entitled to any support at all and were living on the goodwill of friends and charities. Others described fraught visits to shops to use vouchers provided by NASS that can only be exchanged at certain supermarkets and for certain goods. Over half of those interviewed only had access to one or two meals a day. Others reported being forced into illegal work to support themselves. Those with additional special needs have the hardest time. A disabled woman had been unable to bathe for three years, as she was unable to get her wheelchair into the bathroom.
The dehumanisation of the system has led many asylum seekers to take to desperate measures. One of those interviewed had twice tried to take her own life, another’s daughter had also made a number of attempts on her life.
In conclusion, the report calls for all asylum seekers to be given three basic rights: the right to a speedy process; the right to a decent standard of living; and the right to work.