People who have fled dangerous countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Zimbabwe are being forced into destitution and the risk of violence in the UK, the Refugee Council states in a new report published to mark Human Rights Day (10 December).
Thousands of people who have been refused asylum here but who fear returning to their home countries, are being left to live in poverty with no rights while they remain in the UK. The new Refugee Council report, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, highlights examples of the human rights abuses and persecution facing many refused asylum seekers on return to DRC, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. The findings include:
- Mass rape and sexual violence against women and girls at the hands of the army, the police and non-state militia groups in the DRC
- Severe punishment of those who evade compulsory national service including long-term imprisonment or the death penalty in Eritrea
- In Somalia, indiscriminate attacks on civilians by government and para-military Al-Shabaab forces, and extrajudicial killings of opposition members
- In Zimbabwe, the torture and death of people seen to oppose the powerful Zanu-PF party, and ongoing political violence in the run up to the elections next year.
- In Sudan, human rights activists, journalists, and opponents of the ruling party being harassed, arrested and tortured by state military and police forces.
People from those countries made up 20% of those accessing the charity’s destitution services in the last year. Many were women, for whom destitution can have a particularly serious impact , including being forced into violent or exploitative situations in order to get a bed for the night. A fifth of women accessing the Refugee Council’s therapeutic services had faced violence since arriving in the UK, and a high proportion were destitute.
The charity is calling on the UK government to acknowledge the ongoing human rights abuses and persecution facing people on return to their countries, and to offer them a form of protection until it is safe for them to go home.
Lisa Doyle, Advocacy Manager at the Refugee Council said:
“For many people, the horrifying situations that caused them to flee their countries in the first place very much remain a reality. It is no wonder many people fear returning and make the difficult decision to stay here, far from family and with few rights. Those who stay are often forced into poverty, and women find themselves in violent situations they can’t escape from.
“We urge the government to recognise the dangers facing people on return to their countries, and change their policies to reflect this. They can start by offering these people some kind of protection until they are safe to go home so that they can live out of poverty, and are not forced to put themselves at risk just to survive.”
About the report:
Between A Rock and a Hard Place is published by the Refugee Council on 10 December 2012, Human Rights Day. The report examines the human rights abuses and persecution in Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, in order to give illustrations of why many refused asylum seekers in the UK have a well-founded fear of returning to their own countries. This is secondary research collected from a number of respected organisations that regularly monitor the situation in these countries, including the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. It includes recommendations for the government in terms of what action they should take to ensure that those who remain in the UK are fully supported until it is safe to return to their own country.