I've made a film called Leave to Remain - an odd title that displays the absurdly English wordplay that describes the 'permission' that the home office grants asylum seekers to give them 'leave' to 'remain' in this country either definitely or indefinitely. It's a fitting title for the wilfully confusing system that determines worthiness for refugee status.
Refugees consistently face some of the toughest choices imaginable - whether to stay where they are and face rape, torture or death or leave behind their family, everything they have and know to embark on a dangerous - all too often fatal - flight into the unknown. Here's where I'm supposed to say: 'Imagine if it were you, facing such a choice. Imagine if it were your mother or brother". But you don't need to be patronised. We're all more than capable of empathy. Yet we continue to treat refugees with ignorance and even contempt. Why does our collective empathy so often fail to manifest in our treatment of such a vulnerable group?
In our report, we found that systematic failures from successive governments had left many destitute, with levels of support inadequate to meet even basic living needs. As one mother told the panel, "I would buy one meal which I will share with my son. My son, is my priority, therefore I will provide his nutritional needs before my own and occasionally starving myself." The government said that they would take our findings into consideration, but I was extremely disappointed when, in June last year, the Home Office announced that they were freezing the support rates.
Refugees come to the UK in fear of their lives, having fled the horrors of violent conflict, persecution, rape or other forms of torture or harm. They are met by a complex, insensitive and fiercely adversarial asylum system that all too often lets them down and, by association, lets us and the liberties we cherish, down too.