'Getting tough' on refugees creates hostile environment for us all

Half of the world's refugees are children

As part of Challenge Poverty Week (17-23 October 2015), our Housing Development Officer Jamie highlights some of the challenges faced by asylum seekers and refugees in Scotland.

Poverty has long been a reality for asylum seekers and refugees.

Financial support for asylum seekers, who are barred from working in the UK, remains low. People struggle by, sometimes for many years, on just £36.95 per week – that’s just over £5 a day which in cities like Glasgow barely covers the cost of an all-day bus ticket. And support rates for families with children were cut in August this year by 30%, pushing vulnerable children into more poverty.

Around two thirds of asylum applications will be rejected – although on appeal many of these rejections will be overturned suggesting the first decision was the wrong one. Only some of those refused asylum will get a cashless Azure card while awaiting deportation or for their case to be re-examined.  Others will end up destitute.

Securing status in the UK does not end the cycle of poverty.

Over 95% of new refugees need to make applications for mainstream benefits until they can find employment. However, most new refugees do not yet have a National Insurance Number which is required to receive benefits. This means new refugees can be left for up to a month without benefits, and more than two months for child-related benefits which proportionately disadvantages women. Refugees with disabilities are also unable to claim Personal Independence Payment due a 2 year UK residency requirement.

Many refugees experience an extended period of destitution and rely on charity throughout this transition period.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of benefit sanctions occur among those who have the least English skills.

Homelessness is built in to the asylum process. 

As accommodation comes to an end upon all successful asylum decisions, at least 92% of refugee households will be made homeless when they are given their status. Tight timescales and a lack of material resources stop many refugees from securing accommodation in the 28 days they are given to vacate their asylum accommodation.

But it is important to look at what is happening to refugees within the wider context.  Refugees are one group amongst many that have been demonised by successive governments. People who are long term unemployed, have a disability, are single parents, or who have addiction problems, to mention a few, have come under attack with resulting restrictions on their rights and entitlements.

These restrictions are tools with which to apportion blame on vulnerable people instead of those in power. And that is something we should all be standing up to.

Further details on how homelessness and poverty is affecting refugees in Scotland can be found in Insights into Integration Pathways: New Scots & The Holistic Integration Service.

Join the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #CPW15. Read the full blog post on the Poverty Alliance's website.

Add a comment

  • Your email address will not appear on the site
  • (Tick to hide your name when this comment appears on the site)
Please wait...