Hundreds of failed asylum seekers are living in Scotland on less than the UN’s global poverty target of 77 pence a day.
Pregnant women, children and people with disabilities are among those who have been left destitute on Scotland’s streets, according to a report by the Scottish Poverty Information Unit (pdf) which is based at Glasgow Caledonian University. The UN benchmark is aimed primarily at raising incomes in developing countries.
The report’s author, Morag Gillespie of SPIU, said the levels of poverty she found were “dreadful” and that many interviewees were literally penniless with no legitimate means of income.
I am an experienced researcher in the field of poverty but I was shocked at the scale of the problem and the accounts I heard: people literally trying to work out where the next meal would come from; a person forced to sleep in a church cupboard.
This is a hidden crisis.
I was upset at what I found and as a UK citizen I am affronted that the government allows this to happen.
The report states that 1,849 destitute people were given emergency grants from a charity called the Refugee Survival Trust from 2009 to 2012.
The recipients were mostly male (76%) but included 128 families with children, 21 pregnant women and 25 new mothers.
Almost half (49%) were homeless, including families with children, 26 people with mental health issues, four disabled people and five pregnant women and two new mothers. The asylum seekers came from 67 countries, most often Iran, Iraq and Eritrea. Some interviewees had been in the asylum system for more than a decade.
The independent study was commissioned by the British Red Cross, Refugee Survival Trust and the Scottish Refugee Council.
SPIU recommends urgent changes to the asylum system, including support for pregnant women and measures to help the homeless and organisations supporting them.
The report says the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) should allow asylum claims to be submitted in Scotland and that “end-to-end support” – including accommodation and a system of cash payments – should be given to people through all stages of the asylum system until they are either granted status or leave the UK. The report also called for asylum seekers to be given the right to work if they remain in the UK for six months or more.
Gary Christie, of the Scottish Refugee Council, said:
Every day our case workers deal with people who are in desperate situations.
We see people who have been tortured in Iran yet have been refused protection; others fleeing for their lives from the violence of war in Somalia but who don’t meet the terms of the refugee convention or pregnant women whose cases have been turned down and don’t qualify for any support until they reach 32 weeks.
While families are supposed to receive support until they leave or are granted status, our research shows that, terrifyingly, some are falling through the gaps. The system is complex, difficult to understand and is not working.
Source: The Guardian