Wakefield and District City of Sanctuary
What is the fund for?
The fund is to help Asylum Seekers whose claims have been refused and have no means of support.
The aim of the fund is to try to help refused Asylum Seekers cope in the interim period whilst they try to mount a new claim.
The Asylum Seekers Support Fund works to raise food, financial support and awareness of the destitution faced by refused Asylum Seekers.
How do Asylum Seekers become destitute in this country?
The simple answer is Government policies do not provide support for people who have had their claims rejected.
When asylum claims are rejected and the person is at the ‘end of process’, they have no legal right to housing, benefits or support. They do have access to Doctors and at the moment don’t have to pay for prescriptions. They are recognised as being in the country and have to report to the Home Office at given times. They are not illegal, the Government knows they are here – but does not support them.
Asylum Seekers whose cases are rejected face some stark choices; return to their country of origin, and face persecution or stay in this country and try to mount a new claim. To mount a new claim Asylum Seekers need to produce new evidence. Not being able to access evidence is a major contributor to initial claims being rejected. If you are fleeing for your life, you don’t necessarily stop to get your documents or proof of identity.
There are various reasons why rejected Asylum Seekers do not return to their country of origin – for example, if they have no documentation to say they came from a particular country, then that country will not accept them as a citizen. Without evidence to prove who they are no country will accept them. They become stateless. If this country deems it unsafe to return a person to a particular country, and the Asylum Seeker cannot make their own way back, then they are stuck in this country – destitute.
Some Asylum Seekers apply for section 4 support while they try to mount a further claim; this provides them with accommodation and an Azure card that make available £35 per week. Terms and conditions apply – they can only use the card in particular shops and they are not allowed to convert the credit to cash. If they do not adhere to the rules of section 4, they can be placed in a detention centre. To receive section 4 the Asylum Seeker must agree to return to their country of origin. If their claim fails and they do not leave the country within a given period they can be forcibly removed from the country.
People who are stateless or there is doubt over their country of origin, predominately single people, find themselves in the position of not qualifying for section 4 and not being able to return to their country. They become destitute. Some ‘sofa surf’, some sleep rough – all are vulnerable to exploitation.
Asylum Seekers and destitute Asylum Seekers are not permitted to work or take up voluntary positions.
How does the Asylum Seekers Support Fund try to help destitute Asylum Seekers?
First, we try to raise funds to enable the destitute Asylum Seekers to travel to agencies that can provide support – many are in Leeds. Funds enable mobile phone contact which is essential for crucial contacts with the Refugee Council, solicitors, interpreters and embassies. Mobile phones, when you have no address, are a lifeline to family, friends and officialdom.
Secondly, we have food collection points – some groups and organizations take a box for a short fixed term. Others, groups such as the Quakers, are committed to supporting indefinitely. At social events, we request that entrance fees are donations of foodstuff or toiletries. The food is then given to destitute Asylum Seekers so they can share or contribute to the homes that offer them hospitality. Due to regulations people in receipt of benefit are not permitted to have people staying with them long term.
Thirdly, we are forming an accompanying group. This is a group of individuals who, as a friend, goes with the destitute Asylum Seeker when they have to report to the Home Office. For any Asylum Seeker such appointments are nerve-racking.
Finally, what we are trying to do is to form a ‘Hosting scheme’. The aim is to form a network of people that will take people in for a night or for longer terms. People are hosting destitute Asylum Seekers in Wakefield but we need a wider network of support.
How could you help the Asylum Seekers Support Fund?
The quick fix would be to say – donate money, run a food collection point, offer to befriend a destitute Asylum Seeker, consider being part of a hosting scheme. All would be beneficial, appreciated and most welcome.
However, the long-term solution is raising awareness of the situation.
Other groups and organizations are campaigning for policy change – add your voice – call for a change in a system that knowingly makes people destitute.
Find out more from the following sources and let us try to change an unfair system.
Still Human Still Here http://stillhumanstillhere.wordpress.com/
Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org.uk/
The European Network on Statelessness http://www.statelessness.eu/