Of the anywhere from 25,000 to 100,000 people who apply for asylum in the UK each year, Amnesty International estimates that approximately two-thirds are turned away. Once rejected, applicants are given 21 days to leave the country, at which point those without children are cut off from financial support and accommodation provided by the National Asylum Support Service. Many, for reasons as complex as those that brought them to the UK in the first place, choose not to leave or are unable to do so, and the number of refused asylum seekers may run into the tens of thousands in London alone. Without recourse to government support or legal work, failed asylum seekers frequently live in poverty and are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, sickness and homelessness.
In 2004, a House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report noted that
where the removal of a failed asylum seeker is delayed through no fault of his own, it is morally unacceptable for him to be rendered destitute.
Right. So the government knows there’s a problem. The Still Human Still Here campaign would maintain that too little has been done to address it. To pressure (one might suggest that shame wouldn’t be too inappropriate a word choice here) the government into corrective action, Still Human Still Here, in collaboration with Student Action for Refugees, will send a number of students off to sleep rough outside St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden tonight (from 6pm on). The hope is that the stunt will raise awareness of what could be described, at best, as government inaction and, at worst, as an active unethical policy to push failed asylum seekers out of the country.
Statistics come from the Amnesty International report Down and Out in London.