Campaign to stop refugees going homeless and hungry launches, as research finds ‘extreme’ poverty affects hundreds

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Open your eyes to refugee destitution in Scotland.

Hundreds of asylum seekers in Scotland, including children and pregnant women, are being left completely destitute with no support and nowhere to live, and yet they have no way of returning home safely, according to Scottish refugee charities.

The claims by Scottish Refugee Council and Refugee Survival Trust are based on new research by Glasgow Caledonian University’s Scottish Poverty Information Unit, which highlights refugee poverty as the most extreme researchers have seen.

In response the charities are launching an urgent campaign calling for the UK Government to change its policy of forcing refused asylum seekers into destitution.

Open your eyes to refugee destitution

The campaign calls on Scots to ‘open their eyes’ to refugee destitution and help stop the deliberate policy in its tracks by signing a postcard or online petition calling for change, which will be sent to the UK Immigration Minister.

Refused asylum seekers often come from countries including Iran, Eritrea, Zimbabwe and Sudan, to which return is extremely difficult because their governments will not co-operate or there is no safe route.

No support – struggling to survive in limbo

Yet their support is stopped and they face eviction from their accommodation in Scotland.

They are not entitled to work yet have no money for essentials such as food, warm clothes, toiletries including sanitary products, and bus fares.  Many are destitute for years at a time but cannot return home, where they still fear for their lives.

Head researcher Morag Gillespie surveyed over 100 asylum seekers, two thirds of whom were refused, and recorded a total of 148 destitute people, including at least 18 children and five pregnant women. But she believes that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

She said: “My research suggests hundreds of asylum seekers are caught in a trap – unable to go home and yet forced into destitution and unable to support themselves in any way.

“The existence of such extreme poverty in Scotland should be a focus of public policy concern.

In all my years of researching poverty with different sections of society, I have in fact never seen anything so extreme or so hidden from official records. I can’t believe that we treat people like this in Scotland today. It is no way to live.”

Refugee destitution in Scotland must stop

Gary Christie, Head of Policy for Scottish Refugee Council, explained that our case workers deal with asylum seekers in desperate situations every day.

“We see people who have been tortured in Iran yet have been refused protection; others fleeing for their lives from the violence of war in Somalia but who don’t meet the terms of the refugee convention; or pregnant women whose cases have been turned down and don’t qualify for any support until they reach 32 weeks,” he said.

“The system is complex, difficult to understand and is not working. We are calling on Scots to say enough is enough. Please get behind our campaign and tell the UK Immigration Minister that refugee destitution in Scotland has to stop.”

Shameful and an unfair asylum system

Michelle Lowe, Development Manager for Refugee Survival Trust, said that over the last three years Refugee Survival Trust has provided emergency support to over 1800 people who had no other way of buying food or other essentials. Many of them were homeless.

 “It is criminal and shameful that people who come here seeking protection are left penniless and homeless by our unfair asylum system,” she added.

Ako Zada, a human rights activist and journalist from Kurdistan, Iraq, whose claim for asylum was refused last year, is one of many struggling to survive without support.

He said: “I fled to the UK because my life was put in danger when I spoke out against the oppressive regime in my country.

“The Home Office has stopped my support and I am facing eviction. If I am kicked out on to the street I don’t have any alternatives.

It is a horrible situation that makes me very depressed but I feel I must speak out so that things will hopefully improve for others in the future. People need to know that asylum seekers are living like this, surviving on nothing.”

Scottish Refugee Council and Refugee Survival Trust will launch their campaign at a public event at the Tron Theatre later today (Monday, 1 October), as part of Black History Month.

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