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Comment 2nd August 2010

Our asylum system is a mess and certainly breaches many of our obligations under international law.

People have a right to claim asylum and to have their claims properly considered. The grounds for being granted asylum are tightly defined and include torture, persecution etc because of one's ethnicity,m religion, political affiliations etc.

UKBA has an appalling record for being extraordinarily slow and making demonstrably wrong decisions based on prejudice, ignorance and failure to acknowledge authoritative international evidence. Decision letters naming the  worng country are commonplace as are decisions that ignore overwhelming evidence of torture.

Against this background it is not surprising that there are so many appeals. 

The other fact that is seldom appreciated is that, even if a decision has been made to remove ,this cannot always happen. There may be a dispute about country of origin. The other country may refuse to accept. Most commonly there are many circumstances in which, although asylum has been refused, even the UK (and both this govt and the previous one are equally heartless) recognises that return is unsafe.

Yet whatever the circumstances people who have reached the end of the process have their access to benefits removed. The consequence is that destitute asylum seekers, many of them victims of persecution, violence, even torture, many suffering mental health problems, are at the mercy of friends for the most basic needs. Many sleep rough and some have to prostitute themselves.

It is appalling that a so-called civilised country can treat people this way. Benefits (and they are very stingy) should continue until removal. More importantly, ALL ASYLUM SEEKERS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO WORK. This would benefit UK, because people would be less dependent on benefit, and it would benefit the people concerned, many of whom are well educated: they want to make a contribution; it would improve their mental health and improve integration. The only reason why governments would fail to make this change is that, actually, they don't want people to put down any roots at all.

Some people wait years and years (up to 7, maybe longer) for a decision. It is grossly inhumane to refuse people in this bureaucratic nightmare the right to start to make a life for themselves in UK.

Why does this matter?

The key things are:

no withdrawal of benefit;

the right to work.

Reasons above.

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