By Declan Carey
ASYLUM seekers experience a ‘dehumanizing’ system in the UK according to the British Red Cross, who claim vulnerable people are not receiving enough support in the country.
Debbie Busler, Head of Refugee Services at the charity, told Redaction Politics that the Government and third sector organisations have very different views as to what is needed.
She said: “There’s a host of ways that the system makes life difficult for asylum seekers at the beginning and throughout their journey.
“What the Government say are their needs are not exactly what the third sector would say are their needs.
“The amount of money that they get has been argued about over a number of years and whether or not it actually meets basic needs.
“By and large they don’t get adequate support, there are frequent complaints about the accommodation, the Home Office has contracts with organisations who deliver this accommodation and some are better than others.
“There are often issues in terms of getting repairs fixed, so accommodation is an ongoing issue.
“There’s also financial support, if they’re getting any cash that needs to go to cover food, clothes, there needs to be an extra amount to pay for children because children typically go through clothes faster. They have to buy all of that with £37 a week.
“Within the Red Cross we provide casework support that helps people understand their rights and entitlements in the UK.
“Often many people don’t understand what the asylum process entails, especially if they can’t read in English when they might get letters.
“Our caseworkers will walk them through the process and help them interpret letters they receive from the Home Office and make sure they know what they are entitled to during that process.
“It’s a range of trying to fill in those gaps where the statutory support is just not enough.”
Government regulations allow asylum seekers to claim £37.75 a week to pay for basic amenities such as food, clothing, and toiletries.
People eligible for state benefits in the UK such as Universal Credit can claim £342.72 per month, more than double what asylum seekers are asked to live on.
In comparison, Germany received more than 160,000 asylum applications in 2019 whilst offering 354 euros per person to live on each month.
Dr Carlos Gigoux Gramenga, Deputy Director at Essex’s Centre for Migration Studies, told Redaction that the asylum process in the UK places people in ‘extremely vulnerable’ positions.
He said: “Contrary to what people believe, the UK is not an easy place to claim asylum.
“The people who suffer ordeals in order to make it here are under no illusion that this is going to be an easy process.
“If you talk to any of the organisations who work with refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, they will tell you how difficult it is to claim asylum here.
“They become extremely vulnerable for years as their asylum claims are being processed.
“It’s not that once they cross the channel everything is sorted, it doesn’t happen like that.
“They spend years in the asylum system, and this is people who have been already traumatised, victimised, people who have suffered abuse, and now they have to go through very strong mental health issues because of this process.
“First of all, they’re not allowed to work as they are claiming asylum, they get a very basic maintenance grant.
“They are relocated to homes spread across the UK, sometimes in places that are not suited for them because they experience social isolation.
“And here comes the great paradox of all of this, because if you ask me who really cares about asylum seekers in the UK? The response is civil society, not the government.
“The way that civil society and charities and NGOs have used a whole range of resources in order to help people access services, help people to integrate into communities, is free of charge.
“They don’t get money from the Government to do it, it’s out of their good will.
“These are the real heroes who are really helping asylum seekers not only to access services, but to integrate.
“They don’t get the support from the government that they should like in other countries.”
The Government received more than 34,000 asylum applications in 2019, granting 48 per cent of applicants compared to 30 percent in 2018.
The biggest issue that asylum seekers need to overcome? A lack of dignity and care according to Debbie Busler.
“Our teams offer asylum seekers a lot of emotional support.
“This is often the biggest thing for them, as many note they haven’t been treated with such dignity and care before.
“It’s so important for them to feel like a human being and sadly, the system is dehumanzing.”
However, a Home Office spokesperson defended the government’s record with asylum seekers.
They said: “We take the wellbeing of asylum seekers extremely seriously.
“The weekly cash allowance provided to asylum seekers is reviewed each year to make sure it is sufficient. We recently announced an above inflation increase to the allowance.
“Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with free accommodation while their applications are considered, utility costs are covered, they have access to healthcare and their essential living needs are also met.
“The Home Office demands the highest standards from our contractors and their accommodation and our contract standards meet or exceed the Decent Homes Standards.”
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