Sunday, 20 April 2014

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.’

Readers' comments (50)

  • Colin McCulloch

    Quite right too. The right wing elements of the media would believe that asylum seekers are somehow less than human, a sort of parasitic virus that lives a life of luxury whilst taking all of our jobs, houses, public services and benefits.

    Having had to visit (in a previous job) the old Red Road flats in north Glasgow where a great number of asylum seekers used to be housed, I can say with great certainty that the image portrayed in the Daily Mail etc is utterly false, with these poor people living in squalid conditions; no heat, no running water, no food, no access to public transport, rampant unemployment, crime and drug/alcohol abuse, as well as overcrowded schools.

    Here for a life of luxury? Don't bet on.

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  • Alex Brown

    I agree with Colin on the appalling standards asylum seekers face, my question though is if we all have known this for years (through bitter experience) why did it need an enquiry to prove it to MPS?????

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  • Sounds just like home, six people over age 16 in a three bed Victorian house with inadequate insulation, a 25 year old kitchen, a 100 year old bathroom, cracked walls top to bottom and a vermin infested cellar. That's life in a national park for you, thank goodness for the walks, the wind and the rain...

    Depressed now.

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  • The facts will never get in the way of Daily Mail story or a bit iof bile from the Con/LibDem/NewLab coalition. It is utterly appalling that landlords can walk in on parents unannounced and that women are apparently driven to prostitution. However, I am quite sure that for the likes of Tax-me-Not Osbourne, Nasty Nigel Farage, Ian Demento-Smith and that aberration of evolution Eric Pickles the findings will be just what they want to see for Johnny Foreigner.

    With leaders who barely stay the right side of the line between decency and racism, a press that is so vile if would make Goebbels spin in his pyre and a society and economy designed to make 99% sweat and live in fear for the benefit and delectation of 1%, I can't for the life of me see why Call-me-Dave and chums are getting hyped up by the thought that Romanians and Bukgarians will flock to Britain, Having lived in Eastern Europe for some time, I can asssure them that Romanians and Bulgarians are not that stupid.

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  • Daedalus

    I would like to nominate Gresley's posting at 9:29 for an award in the category of "Bitterly bile-laden posting, with no constructive redemptions"

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  • Progressive Solutions Required

    Fortunately, current government policy will put an end to this inequality, by making such experiences common to all UK residents unable to afford to buy their own home.

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  • It's immigration and asylum which caused the shortage of housing in the first place especially in London and the financial costs makes is necessary to bring in Welfare Reform. Has anybody read the recent Census??? We have to pay for our policies now and welfare is one way to make such savings...

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  • While no one should live in these conditions, it's a sad fact that there are limited funds to cover this. The "lets throw money at it" solution hasn't worked before, with it just attracting more people, and thus less funds to go around.

    Asylum within the EU should be more regulated and controlled with funds and numbers of Asylum seekers balanced out amoung the member states.

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  • Colin McCulloch

    Narra -

    They are already, Greece and Italy have far asylum seekers than we do and still do next to nothing to alleviate the abject poverty they suffered.

    The fact is we are the 4th/5th/6th richest nation on the planet and we could and should be doing more to alleviate poverty, particularly amongst children. As it is, Chris points out that Government has fired the starter's pistol for the race to the bottom and it won't be long before everybody lives in similarily grim circumstances.

    P Righteousness -

    "It's immigration and asylum which caused the shortage of housing in the first place especially in London..."

    Nothing to do with selling off two million council houses and never replacing them then? Nothing to do with buy to let hoovering up all the available properties that low-middle earners could have bought? Nothing to do with declining house builds (lowest since the 1920s)?

    It must be helpful to have the scapegoat of immigration to blame all of your woes on.

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  • Gavin Rider

    Colin - I love the way you splash numbers around with such apparent authority when they are complete and absolute rubbish.

    We are not the 4th/5th/6th richest nation on the planet - not even close!

    According to the World Bank we are 32nd in terms of GDP per capita (2010 figures).

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