UK

Refugees 'Consigned To Homeless And Hunger By Government Policy', Parliamentary Group Says

One refugee was left homeless for five months because of a typo on his paperwork.

25/04/2017 07:11 BST | Updated 25/04/2017 09:05 BST

Refugees are being left homeless and destitute because Government policy fails to support them, a cross-party parliamentary committee has warned.

Asylum seekers have just 28 days to leave their Home Office accommodation once they are granted refugee status, and this leaves many to rely on charity as they try to make their first steps integrating in Britain, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees said in its report.

The committee also warned of a “two tier system”, with stark differences between these refugees, who often make the treacherous journey across Europe to get here, and those the Government brings to Britain.

Those who are already designated refugees and brought here - such as Syrians who come under the Home Office’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) - receive dedicated support through the scheme, the APPG said.

But those who come here and apply for asylum face, just after they win the right to stay here, a sudden stop in financial support, delays in processing their paperwork and a “patchy” landscape of English language education and help to find work and shelter.  

The APPG report cited one refugee from Syria who spent months homeless and jobless because of a spelling mistake in his paperwork.

Maurice Wren, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said it was unacceptable for a small fraction of refugees to be given more support while the majority were “consigned to the high risk of homelessness, hunger and despair”. 

He said: “These are people who have fled the same bombs and bullets. It’s vital the Government recognises that they need the same support to begin rebuilding their lives.”

These are people who have fled the same bombs and bullets. It’s vital the Government recognises that they need the same support to begin rebuilding their lives."

Anas, the refugee made homeless by the spelling mistake, said: “I will always be grateful to Britain but I will never understand a system which stops people like me from getting on my feet and contributing to society.”

It took five months to fix the mistake in his paperwork, during which time he had to rely on the biscuit tin at the charity shop he volunteered at for sustenance. 

He added: “ISIS and Assad mean that it’s no longer safe for me at home. When I arrived in Britain, I was so thankful to have been offered safety.

“All I wanted was to be a good person and give back to the country which sheltered me – but I couldn’t for no better reason than because my paperwork was wrong and it took five months to fix it.”

In contrast with Anas, Nour came to Britain under the VPRS and promptly received the correct paperwork and had access to English language lessons and help in finding accommodation.

He is now studying for a computer science degree at Birmingham University.

He said: “When I arrived in Britain, I wanted a hand up, not a hand out, to get back on my own two feet, continue my work and studies, and start supporting my family.

“I’m grateful to Britain for the support I received and I hope to have the opportunity to repay the country with my work. I want all refugees to have the same opportunity.”

The APPG report calls on the Government to double the length of time asylum seekers can remain in their accommodation before they are kicked out.

The group also calls for more money for English language lessons, which more than halved between 2008 and 2015.

It recommends the creation of a new National Refugee Integration Strategy and a ministerial post dedicated to resettling refugees.

The process by which refugees are given National Insurance numbers

Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire, who chairs the APPG, said: “Creating a two-tier system for refugees, loading the dice against people who come here to build a new life is, is not just the wrong thing to do but a costly missed opportunity for Britain.

“Refugees bring so many talents and skills. They just need the opportunities to unlock their potential.”