A special thing happened this week. A former leader of the Conservative party made a heartfelt plea for asylum seekers to be treated better. Iain Duncan Smith MP formally launched a report from the Centre for Social Justice, his own think tank, called ‘Asylum Matters’ – calling for a radical overhaul of the asylum system to bring about better decision making, and an end to destitution.
I was there, along with Maria – a Zimbabwean nurse who has been in the UK for eight years, having been beaten, raped and forced to flee the Mugabe regime and seek safety here. She left her husband and four children behind – she has not seen them since. She is destitute, and survives on the support of friends and well-wishers.
She told her story to the collected journalists. Mr Duncan Smith used her story to illustrate the kind of situation the report set out to address. Putting more resources into getting decisions right first time, was the only solution to this tragedy. And in the meantime, those who are unable to return home, should at the very least be allowed to work and support themselves.
We at the Refugee Council have long been calling for this. How refreshing, then, to hear a senior Conservative MP say it too! A piece of independent research, carried out by an ostensibly right wing think tank, has come to the same conclusion.
Enough, then. Cross party support for a new approach is apparent. Treating asylum seekers in the way they are now is unacceptable and expensive. Time for some radical change, methinks.