Governments urged to provide cash grants to support asylum seekers
The Scottish Government should provide emergency cash to asylum seekers, including those with no recourse to public funds, to prevent vulnerable people becoming destitute, the British Red Cross has said.
In a joint report with the Refugee Survival Trust, the charity has also urged the government to ensure asylum seekers have access to health services, particularly mental health support, and to set up a pilot scheme bringing together information, advice and advocacy for people early on in their asylum claims.
The report was put together with the help of asylum seekers across the UK, as well as those who work with them through the NHS and community groups.
Phil Arnold, head of refugee services for Scotland at the British Red Cross, warned the destitution faced by many refugees was exacerbated by a lack of information and support.
He said: “Across the UK, people seeking asylum have made positive contributions to their communities and play a valued role where they live. We must listen to their voices represented in this report.
“We are therefore calling on the Scottish Government to establish and fund a pilot peer support system that will ensure new arrivals are able to access support, guidance and friendship from people who have shared experiences of navigating the asylum system.”
The report also calls on the Home Office to provide an initial cash grant so people can purchase essential items like clothing and phones, speed-up the asylum process and automatically grant people the right to work if they have been waiting longer than six months for an asylum decision.
Cath McGee of the Refugee Survival Trust said: “We need the system to speed up so people don’t fall into destitution, which really holds people back from being able to integrate and rebuild their life here, because of the physical and mental health impacts.”
Key findings from the report showed the first six months in the UK is often the most difficult time for asylum seekers and therefore they need more support from day one.
It also highlighted how widespread destitution is within the community, while waiting for a decision on their asylum application made them more vulnerable to destitution.
Research Ronald Tagwireyi said: “I interviewed persons from across the globe and was struck by the similarity of our experiences, which include, amongst others, so many of the same day-to-day struggles of life and the overwhelming desire to work and contribute to society, all the while waiting for the Home Office to process our claim.”
Responding to the report, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We do not have powers to change UK Government laws on no recourse to public funds and have repeatedly raised issues affecting those seeking asylum, including destitution, and continue to push for the UK Government to make improvements to the way people are supported by the Home Office.”