News ID: 176893
Published: 0103 GMT February 03, 2017

Refugees fleeing conflict destitute in UK

Refugees fleeing conflict destitute in UK

Thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who have fled conflict zones such as Syria, Eritrea and Sudan are being left destitute in Britain, according to a report from the Red Cross. The figure has increased by 10 percent in the last year.

The charity, the largest provider of services to asylum seekers and refugees in the UK, with centers in more than 50 towns and cities, expressed concern about the increase in the numbers of vulnerable and destitute people who have fled war and conflict being helped by its staff and volunteers in 2016, the Guardian reported.

Almost 15,000 people without adequate access to food, housing or healthcare last year received food parcels, clothing and small amounts of cash, an increase of nearly 10 percent on the 13,660 in 2015. In 2014,  just 11,268 people were supported. The youngest recipient of support was a child of one, the oldest was 92.

There are many more destitute asylum seekers and refugees trying to survive across the UK than those supported by the Red Cross, but it is hard to get precise figures as many are living ‘underground’ and do not appear in Home Office records.

study carried out by the London School of Economics in 2009 estimated that in London alone there were more than 350,000 refused asylum seekers. Many cannot return home because their countries are too dangerous or they cannot obtain travel documents. These countries include Eritrea, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: “These figures point to a steady increase in the number of people who flee war and violence only to risk being left destitute and reliant on charities for basic necessities, including the ability to feed and clothe their children.”

At least 21 percent of those seen had refugee status, and thus a legal right to protection and to remain in the UK. Forty-six percent were asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their initial application to remain in the UK, and who were entitled to housing and approximately £36 a week to cover basic living costs (known as Section 95 support).

The Red Cross is seeing people most frequently in Leicester, London and Cardiff.

“It’s clear that our asylum system can leave anyone destitute, from families with young children to older people, including individuals who the Home Office has deemed in need of international protection,” Adamson added.

“No one should be left homeless after fleeing the devastating conflict in Syria or persecution in Eritrea. Instead of creating a more hostile system which puts even more people at risk of living hand to mouth, we want to work with the government to address this largely hidden and silent crisis.”

Some asylum seekers are forced to sleep on night buses or on park benches and women in particular are vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Many are reliant on charities to feed them.

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