Skip to Navigation

British Red Cross highlights plight of refused asylum seekers who cannot be returned

Date of Publication: 
6 March 2017

Report finds situation for stranded asylum seekers is bleak and they face a life of destitution in the UK

British Red Cross highlights plight of refused asylum seekers who cannot be returned

06 March 2017

A new 52-page report by the British Red Cross looks at the plight of asylum seekers whose claims have been refused, but who cannot be returned to their country of origin.

The report can be downloaded here. You can also read an in-depth feature on the report on Medium here.

Refused asylum seekers may be unable to return due to issues including a lack documents such as passports, their nationality is disputed, or because there is no viable route back to their country of origin.

According to the Guardian, no conclusive figures exist on the numbers of refused asylum seekers who cannot leave the UK, although a freedom of information response from the Home Office reveals that 1,096 people lodged an application for statelessness in the UK after being refused asylum, following the introduction of new guidance in April 2013.

The British Red Cross finds that the situation for such asylum seekers is bleak and they face a life of destitution in the UK, with most relying on friends and charity to survive.

The report states: "They may be homeless or sofa-surfing, hungry or lacking adequate clothing. They may be struggling to access some form of healthcare. They are often experiencing all of these things. They currently have no, or an extremely limited, chance of regularisation of their status. Asylum support options are not accessible to them and this issue is likely to worsen under Section 95A. Without support, these people are vulnerable to exploitation and they are likely to drop off the radar, making it even less likely that they can be returned."

Nearly half of the 15 refused asylum seekers interviewed by the British Red Cross for the report said they had considered suicide, while others reported chronic stress, insomnia, anxiety and depression. Most said they felt they have no control over their life.

Mike Adamson, British Red Cross chief executive, was quoted as saying: "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."

The British Red Cross calls on 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.

The full key findings of the report are as follows:

• Life is bleak for refused asylum seekers who cannot be returned.

• The majority of the refused asylum seekers we interviewed are not on any form of support. With no money, they struggle to survive and rely mostly on charities for food and clothing.

• Accommodation is a major problem and most have no quiet, safe place to call home. They are constantly moving around and rely largely on friends and night shelters. For some, the only option is to sleep rough.

• Living in limbo with no control over their future has a profound impact on the physical and, particularly, the mental health of refused asylum seekers. Red Cross staff often witness a deterioration in the health of these people over time. Worryingly, many of our refused asylum seekers have considered suicide at some point and accessing mental health services was reported to be challenging.

• The main changes suggested by our refused asylum seekers to improve their situations were obtaining status, being allowed to work or study, having a home and having money. All of them desperately wish for a solution to their life in limbo.

• In addition, Red Cross staff felt that the Home Office should recognise how difficult it can be to get re-documented. They suggested that the Home Office should provide practical and financial assistance to help refused asylum seekers obtain responses from the relevant embassies. Staff also reported that it is essential to keep people on support during the re-documentation process – charities should not be seen as a safety net for this group.