It is difficult to imagine a group of people whose lives have been as comprehensively destroyed as asylum seekers. They arrive here usually with only the clothes on their backs; traumatised by persecution or military conflict in their home country or by the circumstances of their journey to safety. On top of this, there is the sense of uncertainty, insecurity and loss – of country, family, status, career or property.
Once here, they face the complexity and unfamiliarity of the UK asylum system, language and culture, and often encounter hostility and harassment. They cannot work, volunteer (for the first year) and have no recourse to mainstream benefits.
Throughout their struggle for permission to stay (which can take years) they live in a state of pervasive insecurity; being moved around the country and often in poor housing with just £40.85 per week in subsistence payments.
Those who are refused asylum face a bleak future. No longer supported by the Home Office, they are homeless, without any legal means to survive and so liable to arrest, detention and enforced return to their country of origin unless they can access advice and legal help to submit a fresh asylum claim. They are extremely vulnerable to exploitation.
Once refugee status is granted, building a new life in the UK is a long and difficult process. People are given just 28 days’ notice to quit their asylum accommodation and face the brutal transition to mainstream benefits. They must find a place to live and begin looking for work and so it’s no surprise that many end up destitute and homelessness at this time.