Four in 10 asylum seekers are destitute, says Scottish Refugee Council

Almost four out of 10 of the asylum seekers seeking our help are destitute, says Scottish Refugee Council.

New statistics published today by Scottish Refugee Council reveal shocking levels of destitution amongst their client group.

More than 35 per cent of asylum seekers and refugees using their services had no access to any means of support, and were street homeless or were temporarily staying with friends or acquaintances.

The number includes people who are at the end of the asylum process and are left on the streets, not able to access food or shelter and with no right to work to support themselves, despite being unable to return home.

These people are often from countries like Iraq, Zimbabwe and Eritrea, places so dangerous they are frightened to or cannot go back. For them, being hungry and homeless in Britain is the only option. 

Others were entitled to support, but administrative failures in the asylum system meant they were left destitute.

The evidence comes from a ‘snapshot survey’ of people visiting the UK-wide national network of One Stop Services for asylum seekers during November/December 2007.

Simon Hodgson, head of policy and communications at Scottish Refugee Council, said:

“The number of destitute people coming to us for help is harrowing. As the survey shows, the system is failing some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. Many of the destitute people seen in our offices are entitled to support, but the system is letting them down. Others are being denied support by the government even though it is not possible for them to return home - some need safety here, others are simply not able to return just yet. Many asylum seekers and refugees want to return home when it is safe for them to do so. Until then, under no circumstances should we be leaving people to starve on our streets.”


Notes to editor:

  1. The snapshot survey was conducted by the Asylum Support Programme Inter-Agency Partnership (IAP), which is made up of five leading refugee agencies across the UK - Scottish Refugee Council, Refugee Council, Refugee Action, Migrant Helpline and Welsh Refugee Council - during a four-week period November 19 - December 14, 2007.
  2. Of the 1245 clients who visited Scottish Refugee Council’s offices in this period, 442 were destitute, unable to access support from the Border and Immigration Agency, not able to work or claim any benefits.
  3. UK-wide, over 40 percent of asylum seekers and refugees using the services of the Asylum Support Partnership were destitute.
  4. For further information please contact Aideen McLaughlin, media and communications officer at Scottish Refugee Council on 0141 223 7927 or 07734 030 763.