Asylum Seekers Support Fund:
Notes on the Hostile Environment, Effects of No Recourse to Public Funds and Indefinite Detention
In creating a ‘Hostile Environment’ the Government institutionalizes a culture of fear for asylum seekers. As an illustration, the words used by the Home Office and the media play into a rooted background of constructionism; terms such as failed asylum seeker – suggests that the asylum seeker did not pass, and as a consequence were applying without just merit. As an alternative the words rejected asylum seekers triggers a different public understanding, which none the less still has negative connotations.
The GOV.UK website is now using the word ‘rejected’ when referring to asylum seekers who have had their claims turned down. However, overall the culture of hostility and negativity towards asylum seekers continues in the press and media.
Correspondences from the Home Office plays into the environment of hostility and invariably includes statements which indicate that detention is likely, and failure to comply with conditions will result in arrest, fines or imprisonment. As an example, an extract from a letter sent to a person on Immigration Bail has the heading –
“NOTIFICATION OF GRANT/VARIATION OF IMMIGRATION BAIL1 TO A PERSON DETAINED2 OR LIABLE TO BE DETAINED3”
“FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH CONDITIONS
Failure to comply with any of the above conditions may lead to arrest, your conditions being varied, the requirement to pay money under any financial condition, and/or detention.
Failure to comply with any of the above conditions, without reasonable excuse, is also a criminal offence which may be punished by a fine or a prison sentence.1”
(1Sechedule 10 to the Immigration Act 2016)
(2 Paragraph 1 of section 10 to the Immigration Act 2016)
(3 Paragraph 2 of section 10 to the Immigration Act 2016)
Other letters include timescale options of when to expect arrest. Needless to say, receiving a Home Office letters create fear. Many people applying for asylum have limited or poor English skills – just comprehending the language and understanding what is meant by the letter can cause immense destress. The threat of prison, detention and deportation causes unbelievable anxiety. The threat of fines when you have ‘no recourse to public funds’ can create a huge pressure, especially as all people in the asylum process, rejected or otherwise, are not permitted to work. Sadly, it does not take much thought to realize that this country’s hostile environment turns a basic human right into a potential criminal activity.
People whose asylum claims have been rejected can lose their National Asylum Seekers Support (NASS), which is accommodation and funds, within 28days of the decision being made. When their case is rejected they are asked to leave the country as soon as possible. If people do not have the right to appeal they have to face the daunting choice of applying to the Home Office for an assisted return or applying for support whilst they gather new evidence to make a new case.
Home Office information states that if your asylum claim has been refused you must return to your country as soon as possible. If you have been refused asylum and are homeless and without money for food ‘and you can show there’s a good reason why you can’t leave the UK yet:’ you can apply for support (section 4). However, the criteria for claiming support is limited and support is linked to making every effort to leave the UK.
If refused asylum seekers apply to the Home Office for accommodation and funds, support is offered on a no choice basis – people have to go where the Home Office sends them. People may have been in the asylum process for years. When their case has been rejected and they apply for support they can be placed in a totally new area. This means that people are uprooted from all of their social networks and literally have to start again. This can be distressing for vulnerable adults and devastating for children. Not all refused asylum seekers are granted support, many fear applying to the Home Office for support because of the risk of detention and deportation.
The fear of the Home Office drives people, who do not want to return to their country, into vulnerable situations. Rejected asylum seekers with no recourse to public funds and no legal means of securing employment are placed in the position of having to ask friends or the community for help. Accepting help can open up the prospect of being exploited, falling prey to traffickers, becoming destitute and ultimately starving on the streets.
All refused asylum seekers have to report to the Home Office on a regular basis. If a refused asylum seeker has not declared that they intend to submit a new claim they are liable to be detained when they report. If the Home Office suspects that a refused asylum seeker is involved in criminal activities, such as working, they are liable to be detained. By virtue of being rejected and not having leave to remain people are liable to detention. Needless to say, people fear reporting, however, if they don’t report their chances of being pick up and detained are greater. Detention and the threat of detention is built into the hostile environment and creates distress.
People can be detained at any time during the asylum process. Newly arriving people trying to claim asylum, as well as rejected asylum seekers, are liable to be detained. There is no timescale for the period of detention. People can wait months and even years to be released. The phycological effect of not knowing when, or if, you are going to be released or deported is torturous. Seeking asylum is not a crime; being held in prison conditions having not committed a crime is immoral and unjust.
People in the asylum process know about and fear indefinite detention. The knowledge creates a genuine mistrust of authority. As people we cannot ignore the harsh realities of the UK’s asylum process. I would suggest that as individuals we cannot uphold the current asylum process as worthy of the intention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; neither can we defend policies which include legalized poverty and indefinite detention.
Liberty, Amnesty International’s Asylum Justice Project, the National City of Sanctuary’s and Amnesty’s joint project Asylum Matters, as well as local groups are all calling for a change in Government policies. A short letter to local MPs asking them to look into the issues will make a positive difference.
The Asylum Seekers Support Fund offers practical support to destitute asylum seekers with no recourse to public funds, we also call on people to peacefully campaign to change the culture of hostility and the policies which are inhumane and disproportionately punitive. Your support and help would be greatly appreciated.
ASSF Coordinator Linda Fielding 6th Aug 2018
For further information please contact: [email protected] or ring Linda 07800605397
Asylum Seekers Support Fund Sort Code 30-99-01 Account Number 17824568
Asylum is a Human Right