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New report from Glasgow's Destitute Asylum Seeker Service looks at destitution among people refused asylum in Scotland

Refused asylum seekers risk extreme poverty and cannot effectively engage with their legal case
Date of Publication:
05 March 2019

New report from Glasgow's Destitute Asylum Seeker Service looks at destitution among people refused asylum in Scotland

05 March 2019

The Destitute Asylum Seeker Service (DASS) last week published an in-depth new report looking at the problem of destitution among people refused asylum in Scotland.

The 90-page report can be downloaded here.

DASS is a Glasgow-based project and is led by the Refugee Survival Trust, working in partnership with the British Red Cross, Scottish Refugee Council, University of Strathclyde Law Clinic, Fasgadh, Rehoboth Nissi Ministries, and Glasgow Night Shelter. The project assists refused asylum seekers to find a route out of destitution and to resolve their situation. You can read more about the work of DASS here.

According to the Scottish Refugee Council, Home Office figures suggest there could be as many as 1000 people in Scotland who have been refused asylum and are at risk of destitution.

The DASS report found that refused asylum seekers in Scotland risk facing extreme poverty, poor mental and physical health, exploitation and social isolation.

Cath McGee, DASS project manager at the Refugee Survival Trust said: "When basic needs are not met people can't make progress with their legal case. People who are made destitute have to focus their time and energy on the day-to-day struggle of finding their next meal and a place to sleep so are unable to concentrate on progressing their legal claim for protection. Very quickly, people become trapped and finding a route out of destitution becomes increasingly difficult as their mental and physical health deteriorates."

The report's five key findings are as follows:

  • Refused asylum seekers have extremely limited accommodation options.
  • Basic needs must be met before people can engage with their legal case and make informed decisions.
  • Destitution places people at risk of exploitation.
  • Independent advocacy services are essential to prevent and mitigate destitution.
  • Cost and responsibility shunting from the Home Office to dispersal areas should be prevented.

DASS said its research found refused asylum seekers frequently relied upon friends and acquaintances to access accommodation, or had to make the 'survival decision' to suffer exploitation in order to access shelter.

The report stated: "Although some refused asylum seekers become eligible for Home Office accommodation and support, our findings show that people require extensive advocacy in order to apply for, and secure, this accommodation and support. The provision of such advocacy by third sector organisations limits cost shunting from the UK Government to Scottish public and charitable sectors."

Importantly, DASS also found that refused asylum seekers face major obstacles effectively engaging with their legal case.

Legal professionals explained that such clients were too preoccupied thinking about where they were going to sleep to be able to focus on gathering evidence, and it could be hard for them to maintain contact and keep appointments.

"Refused asylum seekers frequently struggle to meet their basic needs and, at best, must rely upon charities and friends to access food and clean, warm clothes. Unless these basic needs are met in an accessible way, it is almost impossible for people to engage with support mechanisms and make informed decisions relating to their asylum claim and other legal issues," the report stated.

Graham O'Neill, Policy Officer at Scottish Refugee Council, said that DASS's research showed that people who are refused asylum are blocked from having their basic needs met.

O'Neill added: "The Scottish Government needs to step in now urgently with a human rights based strategy to tackle migrant destitution and support those affected. This strategy must be an integral part of the wider Ending Homelessness Together agenda. There are practical measures we can take in Scotland to help people find a way out of destitution and resolve their legal situation. The top priority is making sure people have accommodation, as without that it is very difficult for someone to be safe and make decisions about their future."