More than 100 asylum seekers and refugees living in forced destitution

More than 100 asylum seekers and refugees living in Glasgow are destitute, meaning being prevented from either working or accessing financial support, according to a snapshot survey conducted by a Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) researcher earlier this year.  

The research, carried out by Glasgow Caledonian University’s Morag Gillespie, counted the number of people who presented as destitute to 13 support agencies and services over a one-week period from 5th March to 11th March 2012.

The average time destitute was one and a half years, though one survey participant had been destitute for as long as six and a half years.

The survey identified one in four of those who seek help from refugee support agencies in Glasgow as destitute – a total of 140 people. The survey included individuals at all stages of the asylum process, from those yet to register their claim to those who have been granted refugee status.

However the largest group are people who have been refused asylum whose appeal rights are exhausted and have no access to public funds; they account for two thirds of all responses. This group represents the main and most difficult situation in which people seeking asylum face destitution.

People surveyed came from 29 different countries, the most common recorded being from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Zimbabwe. The findings of the survey will be launched at an event for a range of stakeholders to discuss destitution and the asylum system to be held at Glasgow Caledonian University on Tuesday June 12, before the start of Refugee Week which runs from June 18 to June 24.

The survey was commissioned by the charities Refugee Survival Trust, the British Red Cross and Scottish Refugee Council and carried out by lead researcher Morag Gillespie from GCU’s Scottish Poverty Information Unit.

Morag Gillespie said: “Coping with destitution for any length of time at all is a traumatic experience, but to do so for more than a year and a half – the average time as revealed in this study – is a truly bleak existence. I was both impressed and inspired to learn of some of the strategies which interviewees have adopted to cope with the immense pressures, for example volunteering.”    

Gary Christie, Scottish Refugee Council’s Head of Policy said: “Destitution is not a policy failure by the Home Office, it is a policy outcome. The deliberate use of withdrawing financial support as a means of forcing refused asylum seekers out of the country is not only inhumane, it is ineffective. It’s time to end this scandal.”

He added: “Many of those refused and forced into destitution would have qualified for some form of protection had they applied for asylum in another country or had they applied in the UK in the past.”

Marie Hayes, Red Cross Operations Director for West Central and South West Scotland said: “In this day and age, destitution should not be an outcome of the asylum system. There should be a proper asylum support structure – including permission to work – until the applicant is either removed or granted leave to remain.” She added: “In the meantime, there should be additional support for all destitute asylum seekers with dependent children.”

One of the respondents, who took part under conditions of anonymity, said: “If you don’t have accommodation or money you basically have no life. Of course it puts you under pressure. It makes you depressed. It has left me feeling dependent in the way that a child is left to feel.”