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Treat asylum seekers as human beings

Comment 2nd July 2010

Current asylum legislation is punitive to asylum seekers – that is people who have come to the UK to seek asylum from persecution.  These people have suffered in their home countries and deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.  Instead, we criminalise (and often detain) them.  Many aspects of asylum legislation should be repealed but two aspects are particularly punishing – the ban on working, and the removal of support to those on appeal.  Asylum seekers are often well qualified, well educated people – they are those lucky enough to have scraped toghether the money to make it to the UK.  We should allow them to work and contribute whilst waiting for their asylum decision.  This would improve their lives, and allow them to contribute.  The removal of support whilst waiting for appeal is even worse – many people who will eventually be granted leave to remain in the UK are effectively forced into homelessness, destitution, dependence and desperation.  This is not the act of a civilised society.   We may be facing relatively hard times, but we should always remember that there are many worse off than we are.  The mark of a civilised society is how it treats the most vulnerable members.

Why does this matter?

We claim to be a civilised society – we need to show this in our actions.  Asylum seekers are people too – they have left their home countries, and families, because of persecution.  We should treat them with compassion, not suspicion – this is the real mark of civilised country.

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