The night shelter is a really fulfilling way of helping people who are at the front-line of the government policy on immigration and an asylum system we believe is biased against asylum seekers. Below is some information about destitute asylum seekers:
Over 90 per cent of people who have come to Glasgow for safety and protection are refused their first asylum application. So it is not unusual that asylum seekers have to make multiple applications before they are successful.
When they are refused, asylum seekers are given only 21 days before their benefits or accommodation are stopped and they’re not allowed to receive any support from any government funded source. Many end up on the streets or couch-surfing with friends.
Unable to work or to claim benefits they are even blocked from accessing the normal homeless services.
Destitution is part of official government policy to make a ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants so that they return to their countries of origin.
Tonight in Glasgow there are people who are blocked from accessing even the most basic homeless accommodation. They are forced to sleep rough or to couch surf, relying on the goodwill of friends and charities for their basic survival. They are not allowed to work, not allowed to claim benefits and as a result cannot get accommodation or enter homeless services.
These people are destitute as the result of a deliberate Government policy that was attacked by a Parliamentary Select Committee as a deliberate abuse of basic human rights over seven years ago.
They are migrants who come from countries outside of the EU who have been denied immigration status by the Home Office. Most are refused asylum seekers but some are people waiting to make their first asylum applications, others are people making applications based on Human Rights grounds. Some are visa over-stayers taking time to make a decision about what they should do. Some are women fleeing from abusive partners and as a result have broken the conditions of their visas.
No one knows how many there are but in Glasgow it has been estimated that between 30 and 300 people are currently sleeping rough or staying with friends in the city without any legal means of support and prohibited from working.
It’s not uncommon for most asylum seekers to make multiple asylum applications before winning their right to live in the UK. Unwilling to share intimate personal information to strangers or worried that it may be leaked by interpreters from their own ethnic group, many asylum seekers who have experienced torture or sexual violence do not initially divulge crucial factual information to the immigration officials looking at their asylum case.
People claiming asylum on the basis of their sexuality often fail to speak openly about their sexuality in interviews with officials as they fear that somehow the ethnic or religious groups that they rely upon for support but who often share homophobic prejudices from their home country may find out. Many asylum seekers withhold information simply on the grounds that they may get the people who have helped them into trouble.
As a result immigration officers repeatedly refuse claims on the grounds that their asylum claims are inconsistent or not credible. Currently over 90 per cent of initial applications for refugee status are rejected by the Home Office in this way. Immigration officials operate in a canteen culture of institutionalised racism where quotas and rewards are used by management to limit the granting of permission at the request of their political masters facing challenges from the far-right.
Even after appeal stages at immigration tribunals, only 30-40 per cent of asylum applications are accepted. The remainder become ‘appeal rights exhausted’ and then given 21 days before their benefits and their accommodation are stopped. An ‘appeals rights exhausted’ asylum seeker is not allowed any recourse to public funds which means they cannot access benefits or even mainstream homeless accommodation.
Because of this ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule even those charities that receive funding from central or local government cannot provide any practical help except advice to refused asylum seekers.
Some decide to resist being evicted and stay on in their accommodation only to return to their flat one day to find the locks changed and their belongings removed without warning. Others flee as soon as they receive the letter telling them to leave their accommodation assuming wrongly that they will be immediately detained and deported if they do not.
Destitute asylum seekers, scared that they will face arrest, detention and then possible deportation, become vulnerable to exploitation. Often they can find themselves forced into providing childcare, cooking and/or housework, and sometimes sex, in exchange for meals, cash, shelter, or other daily necessities.
- Trapped: Destitution and Asylum in Scotland
- Report by Morag Gillespie (2012) Scottish Poverty Information Unit
Film made by Glasgow’s Camcorder Guerillas about destitute asylum seekers