These are an occasional series of briefings aimed at providing the reader with a critical introduction to the subject matter. Drawing on PAFRAS’s extensive work with refused and destitute asylum seekers at our twice weekly drop-in these papers offer an insight into a corner of society that exists beyond the reach of mainstream provision.
PAFRAS briefing papers provide concise analyses of key policies and concerns about those individuals rendered destitute by the asylum process. In doing so, the human impacts of destitution policies are emphasised.
November 15 marked the beginning of a new three-year Standard Civil Contract for Legal Aid provision in England and Wales. The tender process for this contract, which closed on 28 January 2010, was plagued by controversy around the Legal Services Commission’s declared intention of greatly reducing the number of providers delivering legal aid work and by critical flaws in the selection criteria used. This latter controversy recently culminated in a High Court victory for the Law Society, when the court ruled the family-law tendering process had been unlawful, cancelled its result and ordered the LSC pay them £300,000 in costs.
On November 8, a similar case brought by South Manchester Law Centre won the right to proceed with a Judicial Review against the tendering process for asylum and immigration. The Judicial Review will be heard in January 2011.
Where Now For Justice, PAFRAS’s fourteenth briefing paper, takes a critical look at legal aid provision in West Yorkshire and more widely and explores the implications of the new contract for access to justice.
Briefing Paper 13: Beyond the Edges of Healthcare Provision: the Impact of Destitution on the Health of Refused Asylum Seekers
In July 2009 PAFRAS published a briefing paper focusing on the provision of healthcare to refused asylum seekers and analysing developments in government policy on healthcare provision to them. Written in the wake of an appeal court ruling that withdrew free secondary healthcare provision from refused asylum seekers, ‘Beyond the Edges of Healthcare Provision’ also looked at access to primary (GP and dental) care provision; theoretically unaffected by the ruling. This new briefing paper, written one year later, brings us up-to-date with developments in the policy arena and reflects on the ramifications of policy for the lives of the people with whom PAFRAS works.
Forced Inactivity and Barriers to Participation among Refused Asylum Seekers focuses on the ‘deskilling’ of refused asylum seekers. Whilst the asylum process works to ensure that all of those who are forced to seek sanctuary are denied particular opportunities, end of process asylum policy adds to these barriers. By exploring this framework this briefing paper aims to make clear one aspect of asylum policy, as it effects those whose claims for asylum are rejected.
PAFRAS Briefing Paper 11 focuses on the provision of medical assistance available for refused asylum seekers. The level of medical care that refused asylum seekers are able to access has, for some years, been a source of contention. The present government has made clear that, where possible, access to medical support will be denied and the result has been ongoing; appearing before the courts on numerous occasions. At the same time, issues around access to medical support have caused debate, and in many cases protest, within the medical profession itself with many individuals calling for improved healthcare services.
The UK is one of the richest nations in the world. Yet according to a report published by the British Association for Parenteral and Enternal Nutrition (BAPEN), in February 2009, more than 3 million people either suffer from or are at risk of malnutrition. The reasons for this reflect a mix of factors including, BAPEN states, poverty and social isolation and this influential study recommends the need for a strategy to be established targeting malnutrition within the general population. for those who are refused asylum there is a unique and specific barrier in that their malnutrition is a direct result of government policy. This briefing explores the political economy driving government policy and exposes some of the brutal reality of enforced destitution.
It is estimated that there are up to 280,000 asylum seekers in Britain who have been forced into homelessness by the asylum system. In this paper Jon Burnett looks at destitution as a core component of an asylum policy aimed at deterring those seeking sanctuary from coming to the UK and forcing those already here to leave and the impact of this policy amongst PAFRAS service users.
No Direction Home? The Politics of Return for Refused Asylum Seekers focuses on routes of return for asylum seekers whose claims have been refused. Since coming into power the New Labour government have placed considerable emphasis on returning refused asylum seekers – forcibly or otherwise. Ensuring that the number of removals of refused asylum seekers is greater than what are classed as ‘unfounded’ asylum applications is described as ‘performance improvement’. These removal policies have been implemented, frequently, in the face of warnings from NGOs, lawyers, independent experts and even the UNHCR that deportations may well lead to torture and severe injury.
The right to work for asylum seekers, granted in 1986, was abolished in 2002, since which point significant resources and efforts have been channelled into preventing those who are seeking asylum from entering the labour market. This briefing paper looks at the policy and it implementation as well as bringing to light experiences of asylum seekers, forced to join the black market in labour for their survival.
The sixth of PAFRAS briefing focuses on destitution and racist victimisation. In the 1998/99 year the Home Office began to record racially and religiously motivated harassment, wounding and assault. The total number of recorded incidences was 17,720. In 2006/7, the last year from when statistics were available, this had increased to 38,454. Statistics for offences against those seeking asylum are not recorded separately, but independent studies indicate that asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable to racism violence.
According to Dr Angela Burnett of the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture, between 5% and 30% of all Asylum Seekers are reckoned to have been victims of torture in their native countries. Distress, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems are perhaps natural reactions to the extreme circumstances from which they have fled and the dislocation of arriving in an alien country. These traumas can also impact negatively on an individual’s memory and their ability to effective present their case for asylum and substantiate their claim.
Furthermore however, it is a widely acknowledged fact that the asylum process can have a negative impact on the mental health of individuals subject to it. This briefing paper looks at the links between destitution and mental health problems amongst refused asylum seekers.
PAFRAS’s fourth briefing paper casts a critical eye over the much criticised use of dawn raids in the detention of asylum seekers, including asylum seeking families. This is a practice still very much at the heart of the UKBA’s strategy for intimidating its victims and one that was recently criticised by the Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA (see “Immigration inspector criticises dawn raids on families facing deportation” in The Guardian 27 July 2010).
No Access to Justice: Legal Aid and Destitute Asylum Seekers investigates New Labour’s reforms of the Legal Aid system and their dramatic impact on refused asylum seeker’s access to justice.
Destitution and detention are explicitly linked by policy, which criminalises asylum seekers whose claims are rejected. All asylum seekers are liable to be detained at any point. For the destitute, detention is utilised in a number of ways to coerce removal.