Magazine article New Internationalist

Lost Asylum: Rule Change in Britain Leaves Refugees Destitute

Magazine article New Internationalist

Lost Asylum: Rule Change in Britain Leaves Refugees Destitute

Article excerpt

JOHN* is a young Kenyan at Campsfield Detention Centre near Oxford, Britain. Mild - mannered and well - spoken, he has been there for some months. He has committed no crime; he is seeking asylum from persecution back home. His crime is simply to have arrived.

Since 5 February 1996 people in John's position who arrive at British ports or airports have been automatically barred from claiming even the most basic of welfare benefits. They are only entitled to such benefits if they claim on arrival that they are seeking asylum. At this point they are either incarcerated in prisons and detention centres like Campsfield to await a Home Office decision on their case, or are sent back to face the horrors from which they fled.

The Refugee Council estimates that 2,000 asylum - seekers have already been affected by the cut in benefits, with 2,700 more at risk with each month that passes.

Even the Social Security Committee, a statutory body which advises the Secretary of State for Social Security, has pointed out that: 'The reality of the proposals is that thousands of men, women and children will be left with no means of providing themselves with food or shelter. …

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