The government announced this week that asylum seekers applying for voluntary return between 1 February and 31 May 2007 will be eligible for an enhanced assistance package worth £3,500.
Anna Reisenberger, Acting Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“Voluntary return is always preferable to enforced removal. It is more humane, more sustainable and a lot cheaper for the tax payer (1). So, we welcome this announcement of an improved package of help for people taking the big step of returning to the country from which they fled.
“Many refugees will have lost everything when they fled, including their homes, and face serious hardship when they return. This assistance will help them to start rebuilding their lives. It may also help them to set up a new business or learn new skills. The package is only available at the moment for three months and we urge the government to extend it to everybody who wants to pursue the option of voluntary return from now on. We would add that it is vital that nobody should feel under any pressure to join a voluntary return scheme.”
Notes to editor:
1. The enhanced package for voluntary return consists of reintegration assistance up to the value of £3000 and £500 cash and is available to those who apply between 1 February and 31 May 2007.
An updated briefing on voluntary returns is now available, which includes full details of the new scheme: Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP)
Further information is also available on the Home Office website.
2. According to the National Audit Office, voluntary departures cost only a tenth of the cost of an enforced removal (‘Returning failed asylum applicants’, July 2005 http://www.nao.org.uk/pn/05-06/050676.htm).