Destitution debated in the House of Lords - Refugee Council
July 13, 2007

Destitution debated in the House of Lords

Poliblog regular readers will notice a new picture…  That’s me, a new addition to the Refugee Council Team!  From time to time you will find some of my reflections, insights and musings on the wacky world of Westminster as we try to ensure that refugee and asylum seekers’ voices are heard in Parliament.

Yesterday was a big day for our Still Human Still Here campaign as the House of Lords debated the plight of destitute refused asylum seekers as part of the UK Borders Bill. 

Peers from all benches spoke in favour of ending the government policy of withdrawing support to refused asylum seekers.  This policy forces thousands of asylum seekers into destitution in the UK – quite simply, it is a policy that isn’t working and causes immeasurable suffering.

There was lots of food for thought in the debate – and you can read it in full.  The Bishop of Newcastle explained that there are at least 280,000 vulnerable refused asylum seekers living in destitution in the UK – a population the size of his home city!  He highlighted the plight of Milly, a Congolese asylum seeker who came to the UK in 2004 after suffering rape and detention in her home country.  She was refused asylum in February 2006 and since then has lived hand to mouth in Newcastle, relying on local churches and charities for her livelihood.  She is too scared to go home, and so is forced to live a life of degrading destitution here.

Lord Roberts quizzed the Minister on double standards – the government has given tremendous support to the Make Poverty History campaign, when they are actually forcing people into destitution and creating poverty in our own country!

Unfortunately the Minister batted away the chorus of concern from the Lords, saying that they have to take ‘hard decisions’ on asylum policy.  But we know that support for our campaign is growing and MPs will discuss the issue again when the UK Borders Bill returns to the Commons in the autumn.  Watch this space…