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Red Cross report reveals plight of asylum seekers trapped in destitution

5 March 2017

A new Red Cross report has exposed how refused asylum seekers are trapped in a life of destitution in the UK.

‘Can’t Stay, Can’t Go’ identifies a small group of asylum seekers who have been refused permission to remain in the UK, yet cannot leave.

This could be because they lack documents such as passports, their nationality is disputed, or because there is no viable route back to their country of origin.

The report finds that with no right to work and limited financial support, life for this group is bleak.

Most rely on friends and charity to survive and spend extended periods of time homeless and destitute.

'State of limbo'

Mike Adamson, British Red Cross chief executive, said: “Having no permission to be in the UK, but no way home, means being stuck in a permanent state of limbo and often living hand to mouth.

“Some of the individuals interviewed in this report have been in this situation for years.

“No one should be left destitute if they remain in the UK due to factors beyond their control.”

Nearly half of the 15 refused asylum seekers interviewed for the report had considered suicide.

Others reported chronic stress, insomnia, anxiety and depression and most felt they have no control over their life.

All had no choice but to remain in the UK despite having sought to comply with everything asked of them by the Home Office.

One of those interviewed for the report is 44-year-old Walid (not his real name).

Walid has been in the UK for more than 17 years, having fled the conflict in Algeria.

He has applied to return to Algeria, but was unable to leave due to not having a passport or identification. The Algerian embassy will not recognise or re-document him.

With no financial support, he is homeless and has no other option than to sleep on the streets some nights. Walid has a heart condition and has had two heart attacks since arriving in the UK.

Preventing destitution

The Red Cross is appealing to the government to grant discretionary leave to remain, including a right to work, to fully refused asylum seekers who have been taking steps to leave the UK for more than 12 months.

We believe this move would spare a small number of people from being left destitute for extended periods of time.

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