The Refugee Council's response to the statement made today by David Blunkett on reforms to the asylum system

29 Oct 2001

Refugee Council statement

Nick Hardwick, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said: "We welcome the announcement by David Blunkett that the humiliating and demeaning voucher scheme will be scrapped. Commonsense has prevailed and it is a great tribute to Bill Morris for spearheading the campaign against vouchers.

"However, we have concerns with the proposed Application Registration Card system. We are pleased that asylum seekers will have access to cash but it is not clear how much that will be. We are also concerned that the introduction of these so-called smart cards will exacerbate the problems that asylum seekers already face in accessing basic services to which they are entitled.

"Blunkett's statement raises as many questions as it answers. Especially, what steps will be taken to assist those in the current system who are facing impoverishment, and poor living conditions?

"We are pleased that the reception/accommodation centres being proposed will be piloted first as we still have concerns about how they will operate. What degree of independence will people have whilst in these centres? What criteria will be used to determine who is placed in the reception centres? How long will asylum seekers remain in them? We also want to ensure that every asylum seeker, wherever they are living, has ready access to good legal advice, so they have a decision on their asylum claim quickly and can rebuild their lives. They must also be able to access basic services such as education, health care and interpreters.

"We remain concerned that leaving asylum seekers in reception centres for too long risks institutionalizing those placed there and creating dependency.

"The challenge facing David Blunkett is to create a fair, humane and efficient asylum system. We want to work with the Government to make this happen."

ENDS