Vulnerable and destitute forced onto long road to Liverpool

Liverpool, where people will have to travel to lodge fresh evidence for their asylum claims (Photo: Ruaraidh Gillies)

From today, people who need to give new evidence to help prove their right to live in safety in the UK will be forced by the Home Office to travel to Liverpool to lodge it in person – despite many people who are seeking asylum being penniless and vulnerable to severe exploitation.

Scottish Refugee Council is gravely concerned about this rule change, as the ability to present fresh evidence is a key part of access to protection and safety. In fact almost one in five cases are successful as a result of new evidence being presented, despite them being refused initially.

The women and men who will be compelled, as of this morning, to make this long journey, have nothing. They have often lived through great trauma and are still trying to deal with the aftermath. They are also destitute, with no money and no home.

An inhumane decision

What is shocking is that the Home Office knows this – it is they who have withdrawn support in the first place. It is simply inhumane for officials to then oblige them to travel across the country to access a core human right.

It also forces the burden onto already cash-strapped charities and local authorities. The Home Office decision is a universal extension of an existing arrangement where people who had claimed asylum before 2007 already had to travel to Liverpool to submit fresh evidence.

The Home Office has said that this arrangement has not been a problem – but the reality is that between 2009 and 2012 alone Scottish Refugee Council helped 225 people get to Liverpool from Glasgow because they were destitute – at a cost of nearly £10,000 – when they could just have submitted evidence here.

Pointless suffering

Head of Policy and Communications Gary Christie says: “Two weeks ago we received a phone call from a community group asking if we could help a client to travel to Liverpool to submit fresh evidence. He had been destitute for about six months and is with no fixed abode as he is moving from friend to friend in search of accommodation and food on a daily basis.”

“We paid for his ticket otherwise he would not have got to Liverpool. We and other charities are just not in a financial position to do this any longer.”

The Home Office has an extensive, well-established network of local offices including one in Glasgow where further evidence can be lodged, in person, since October 2009. Regional access works, ensuring that destitute asylum seekers can access protection by giving fresh evidence in the area where the Home Office sent them to in the first place. A change that incurs higher costs across the board – and more importantly a great deal more anguish for people who are already suffering – makes no sense on any human level.

Access to asylum must improve

In the Smith Commission, the UK and Scottish Governments agreed that the issue of people who claim asylum in Scotland being forced to travel to Croydon to register their claim for asylum should be looked at. This is an issue we have long campaigned on, and the new rule forcing people to travel to Liverpool similarly affects people’s access to a fair decision.

The Home Office should immediately end the practice of funneling people to different parts of the country to claim asylum or hand in further evidence when they know people don’t have the resources to do so. It is not ‘good customer service’ but instead a cruel barrier to making sure that those who need our protection receive it.

What can you do to help? Ask your MSP to sign this motion on access to the asylum process