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Jesuit Refugee Service UK publishes report examining the impact of destitution and detention on asylum seekers


Catholic charity finds the asylum system can dehumanise, erode and deny human dignity

Date of Publication:
02 July 2019

Jesuit Refugee Service UK publishes report examining the impact of destitution and detention on asylum seekers

02 July 2019

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) UK last week released a comprehensive new report looking at the experiences of asylum seekers and refugees supported and accompanied by JRS UK. On average, JRS UK supports almost 300 destitute refugees per month, providing a range of support from small cash grants to pay for transport and hot food through to creative activities for refugees.

You can download the 52-page report here.

The report was authored by Dr Anna Rowlands, the St Hilda Associate Professor in Catholic Social Thought and Practice at the University of Durham.

JRS UK explains that its report aims to understand the impact of destitution and detention on the lives of those seeking asylum in the UK.

"As well as giving attention to refugees' experience of the asylum system, the research gave attention to a concrete space in which they operated as they struggled through this system. This enabled understanding of the complex interpersonal context that the system operates variously in, on, through and against; and of a particular space of potential resistance and reconfiguration, albeit limited, amid a hostile system," the report states.

Among the key findings of the report are that the current asylum system is experienced by those living in destitution and/or detention as a fundamental distortion of human dignity, and it is a system that wastes time, skill, capacity and promise.

"Destitution, Home Office case-management, and detention were all considered to dehumanise, erode or deny human dignity," the report finds.

One interviewee is quoted as saying: "the system is rubbish. So you come to feel like rubbish"

The report states: "A constant theme in the interviews was the desire to be recognised as human, dignified, and capable of self-determining action through everyday interactions - as well as through access to a just case outcome - as human. The indignity of reporting procedures, indefinite detention and the use of force, enforced destitution and the dependency and precarity this brings, were of central importance."

It adds: "Those we interviewed expressed a profound desire to be able to spend their time well. They also expressed a deep frustration and anger at the way in which the current asylum system enforces the wasting of time, and as a result, the wasting of skill and capacity. Some went as far as to suggest that the system deliberately attempts to distort the way in which those seeking asylum experience time."

The report is critical of the Government's deliberate 'hostile environment' policy and its impact on refused asylum seekers.

It notes: "The destitution of those whose asylum claims have been refused is created by government policy. Destitution is not an accidental or natural condition amongst asylum populations; it exists as a result of a set of centrally devised policies that aim to frustrate self-reliance and community integration and participation during an asylum claim. The Home Office aims to create a 'hostile environment' – now often termed a 'compliance environment' – for undocumented migrants, and indeed named its policies internally within government discourse in this very manner."

Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK, said: "This report, which shows the human face of the asylum system, demonstrates the urgent need to build communities of hospitality to support those who have fled for their lives to participate, build relationships, and use time and skills well. This requires deep, systemic transformation."