What is destitution?

There are an unknown number of destitute asylum seekers in Leeds without access to housing or benefits and with no right to work. Between August 2011 and September 2012 PAFRAS saw some 93 new clients alone who were destitute. They are predominantly individuals who have reached a final negative decision on their claim for asylum and been told to leave the UK, but there are also many individuals who are awaiting a decision on their right to remain in the UK.

A growing body or research conducted by non-governmental and humanitarian organisations, academics and Parliamentary Select Committees suggests that destitution, implemented as a matter of policy with the aim of forcing refused asylum seekers to leave the UK is failing. This recognition comes from a number of diverse sources including right of centre think-tank the Centre for Social Justice and Conservative MP and now Minister Iain Duncan Smith.

Research also shows that asylum seekers remain in the UK after refusal for a number of reasons, most commonly because:

  • they are unable to leave (e.g. they are stateless or lack travel documents and their state of origin refuses to acknowledge their citizenship), or
  • they have been in the UK for a long time and have family ties here now, or
  • they fear persecution or death if they return to their country of origin.

Some even come from countries to which the UK Government will not send people back. Yet they still deny these people the right to work, and refuse to provide them with food, money or shelter. Caught in Limbo, refused asylum seekers are forced into homelessness, hunger and ill health.

Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust Destitution Inquiry

The destitution of many asylum seekers in Leeds has been highlighted by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust’s Destitution Inquiry, which includes the commissioner’s report, Moving on: from destitution to contribution and the research report, Destitution in Leeds: the experiences of people seeking asylum and supporting agencies (Lewis, 2007). The research showed that PAFRAS received 54% of visits by destitute asylum seekers to key agencies in Leeds.

Follow-up reports were published based on additional studies conducted in 2008 (More Destitution in Leeds) and 2009 (Still Destitute), the latter of which showed that more than a third of destitute asylum seekers surveyed had been destitute for over a year, with two out of every three of those made homeless originating form some of the most troubled parts of the world.

For further destitution information, download our briefing paper What is Destitution? and visit our links pages.