Poor decision making and limited access to good legal advice means many people who seek asylum in the UK reach the end of the process without their protection needs being recognised. At this point, they lose access to the accommodation and support provided by the Home Office (they are made destitute), unless they agree to return home. However, many people remain in the UK because they continue to fear what might happen if they return home.
With no permission to work, and no access to public funds, people who have come here to seek protection from persecution are forced to rely on Charities, faith groups, family or friends for food, shelter and other basic necessities. If these individuals do not have access to these safety nets, they face the indignity and fear of life on the streets.
Destitution has incredibly damaging effects on the physical and psychological health of people seeking asylum. It places people at risk of exploitation and can force them to use survival strategies such as illegal working and prostitution. This causes utterly unnecessary suffering for the individual, but also has an effect on the wider community.
Here we gather together details of local campaign actions you can take to end asylum destitution…
COUNCIL MOTIONS AGAINST DESTITUTION
Over the last two years, Councils up and down the country have shown their opposition to government policies that force those seeking safety into poverty and homelessness by passing a Motion Against Destitution.
These motions give support for four clear advocacy goals for ending asylum destitution, which are listed on the Still Human Still Here website.
Why Are Council Motions Against Destitution Important?
We believe that the national government’s policy of forcing people seeking refugee protection into destitution is inhumane and ineffective. Destitution in our local towns and cities is not only damaging for individuals, it also has a negative effect on local communities and puts increased pressure on Local Councils. It is vital that this harmful and short-sighted policy is brought to an end. For more details, see our briefing.
What Difference Do Motions Against Destitution Make?
The exact wording of each motion is up to each council to decide, but they generally include the following statements and commitments:
- Acknowledge the negative impact that destitution has on individuals and the wider community;
- Petition the Home Secretary/ Immigration Minister to relieve the suffering of people seeking protection from persecution and deplore the policies that force them into destitution in the UK;
- Commit to taking local action to relieve destitution (not all Councils make this commitment);
- Ask local MPs to support the spirit of the motion, to raise the matter in the House of Commons, and to support changes in current laws which will reduce the destitution of people seeking asylum in the UK;
- Endorse the findings of the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry on Asylum Support for Children;
- Join the national “Still Human, Still Here” coalition;
- Seek further support for the motion via the Local Government Association, and by encouraging other Councils in the UK to show their support on this issue.
The motions are useful as a political tool. They are effective as a way to officially record opposition from local government to damaging Home Office policies, and to amplify the call for the change.
In some circumstances they can also lead to practical action being taken by councils to relieve destitution. The extent to which a motion leads to practical actions depends on how much local councils and advocates use it as a tool to effect change.
PRACTICAL ACTIONS AND JOINT STATEMENT FROM BRISTOL
In March 2015 an ‘Ending Asylum Destitution’ conference was held in Bristol looking at practical action Councils and other partners can take to relieve destitution. At the conference, Bristol became the first councils to sign a joint commitment on ending asylum destitution.
Click here to download the Bristol Conference documents:
Want to find out more? Interested in passing a Motion Against Destitution in your area?
Click here to read our briefing.