What's Going On?: A study into destitution and poverty faced by asylum seekers and refugees in Scotland

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An estimated 11,000 refugees currently live in Scotland. An increasing number of this population live in abject poverty and destitution. This paper examines the root causes of destitution among asylum seekers and refugees in Scotland and analyses their experiences to create a platform for action. The report identified three major causes of destitution among this group which includes administrative errors and procedural delays, government policy and circumstantial factors. Using a case-study approach and an extensive literature review, semi-structured questionnaires were administered in 20 interviews with individuals and families of asylum seekers and refugees living in poverty.
    “What’s going on?” A study into destitution and poverty faced by asylum seekers and refugees in Scotland April 2005 A research project for the Refugee Survival Trust funded by the Oxfam UK Poverty Programme  Foreword The Refugee Survival Trust (RST) was started in 1996 to help destitute people seeking asylum in Scotland; those who had fallen victim to the harsh new legislation that left them with nothing and no-one to turn to. At that time, we were confident that the situation would soon improve and that the Trust could slip off the horizon as quietly as it appeared. Sadly though, things have not improved. We are now supporting more people than ever before and have a unique insight into destitution among people seeking asylum. It is essential we use this insight to work with others to tackle the root causes of destitution – and this research is our first step. We now call on the government, local authorities, the health service and voluntary organisations to work with us on the recommendations detailed in this report to challenge the root causes of destitution among people seeking asylum in Scotland. Kaliani Lyle Refugee Survival Trust Oxfam's UK Poverty Programme welcomes this report. It documents the devastating, hidden cost of the UK government's asylum policy. The hidden cost is the human cost: poverty and destitution faced by some people who are seeking asylum in Scotland. The report highlights a key Oxfam concern - that administrative difficulties and asylum policies are causing destitution, suffering and mental and physical ill health. It is unacceptable that people seeking sanctuary in our country are going hungry. No one in the UK should face such suffering and insecurity; and it is of great concern that the administration of UK policy is contributing to this. These daily effects are a symptom of the 'problematisation' of asylum, and the shift of the debate from protection to exclusion. As well as administrative and policy solutions, political leadership is urgently needed to restore humanity and dignity to the asylum system in Scotland and in the rest of the UK.  Audrey Bronstein, Programme Director, Oxfam's UK Poverty Programme  UNHCR welcomes the report by the Refugee Survival Trust on destitution and asylum seekers in Scotland. UNHCR is saddened at the destitution suffered by some individuals who are seeking protection in the United Kingdom. The ability to seek protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention may be seriously affected if no reasonable means of survival are made available. Being cold and hungry makes it difficult for individuals to accurately recount traumatic events. A lack of address may affect a person’s ability to maintain contact with the Home Office and legal representatives. We hope the UK government and the Scottish Executive will take steps to ensure that no needless hardship is suffered by those who are pursuing a claim for asylum and those who cannot return to countries UNHCR views are unsafe. Amnesty International welcomes this research, which for the first time documents in detail the causes and effects of destitution amongst asylum seekers in Scotland. It is deeply alarming that it reveals government administrative errors and delays in government policy as the major causes of destitution. This provides more evidence that the punitive focus on deterrence in recent UK asylum policy is having a detrimental effect on the well-being of asylum seekers and undermining people¹s right to protection. There is an urgent need for a fair asylum procedure in which all asylum applicants have their cases considered fairly and are treated with dignity while they await a decision. The government must focus resources on good quality initial decision making to avoid putting people through the suffering, hardship and despair faced by many of those documented in this research. Rosemary Burnett, Programme Director for Amnesty International Scotland       Acknowledgements: The Refugee Survival Trust is grateful to all who contributed to this report, in particular the twenty people who shared their experiences of destitution whilst seeking asylum; Wafa, Joe and all the staff of the Scottish Refugee Council; David and Sraboni at Positive Action in Housing; all the staff at the Asylum Seekers Response Unit, Edinburgh; and all the drop-in centres in Glasgow who provided us with assistance and insight. Published by: The Refugee Survival Trust 19 Smith’s Place Edinburgh EH6 8NT Tel: 0131 554 6776 Email: info@rst.org.uk Website: www.rst.org.uk Copies of a summary document and of the full report can be downloaded from www.rst.org.uk  Research Team: Ruth Marsden Esa Aldegheri Amadu Khan Michelle Lowe Dr Alison Strang Eigrrael Salinas Joyce Juma Thiri Title quote:  “What’s going on?” Rafiq asked repeatedly as he explained how he had received letters of support termination twice, only to be told on both occasions that it was a mistake.
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