Friday, 04 September 2015

Asylum families living in 'appalling' conditions

Children and families in asylum accommodation in the UK are living in cramped, crowded, dirty and unsafe conditions, a parliamentary inquiry has concluded.

The cross-party inquiry into asylum support for children and young people, led by former children’s minister Sarah Teather, found families living well below mainstream benefit levels. This meant they were sometimes unable to buy food or a winter coat, the panel of MPs and peers heard.

Women are sometimes so desperate they resort to begging, transactional relationships and prostitution.

Evidence to the inquiry, supported by charity The Children’s Society, revealed housing providers often enter homes unannounced, leaving single mothers feeling vulnerable and frightened.

It also discovered families were frequently moved with little notice, taking children away from schools and breaking links with support networks.

Those who received the lowest rate of support on a card – not cash – were effectively stranded unable to make trips such as to the doctors or school by public transport.

A report from the inquiry supported by the Home Office is being launched in the House of Commons this afternoon.

It calls on the government to bring asylum support for all children into line with mainstream benefits, abolish the section 4 card not cash system and allow parents to work so they can provide for their families.

Ms Teather MP said: ‘Woeful levels of support for asylum seekers are pushing children into severe poverty and are far below what they need to have a decent life.

‘The evidence we have heard is shocking and appalling. It is an affront to this country’s proud tradition of giving sanctuary to those fleeing danger and violence. We have to ask ourselves, what sort of country do we want to be?’

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: ‘Thousands of children and families are being abandoned and literally left destitute because the system is failing them. Children and their families are being forced to live in appalling conditions that are unacceptable by anybody’s standards. No child, no matter who they are or where they’re from, should be treated with such a complete lack of human dignity.’

Shan Nicholas, interim chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: ‘We see people every day who are unable to properly provide for their children because of delays, gaps in provision and inadequate levels of support.

‘Many families are living in poverty for long periods of time, some are destitute. This inquiry has heard from an impressive array of experts and we urge the government to act quickly to address these issues.’

Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England, said: ‘We remind the government that, under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, they are required to ensure that all children, irrespective of nationality, ethnicity or immigration status, are enabled and supported to survive and develop. Systems and processes for supporting children, and that includes those for asylum seekers, must be designed with their best interests as a primary consideration.’

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