The Chief Inspector for Borders and Immigration has published a report into the asylum support system.
The report revealed delays in decision making on asylum support claims and frequent cases of support being terminated too early when people were granted refugee status.
There are two main categories of support for asylum-seekers, one for those who have an outstanding application (Section 95) and another for refused asylum-seekers (Section 4). The inspection found that UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) frequently missed its targets in dealing with both Section 95 and Section 4 claims.
For people granted refugee status, asylum support should only be terminated when a person receives their Biometric Residence Permit; a document which allows the holder to access mainstream benefits and the job market.
However, in a staggering 63% of cases, this did not happen and refugees’ support was stopped before they had received their Biometric Residence Permit. As our own recent report into the experience of newly granted refugees highlighted, this leaves people at risk of homelessness and destitution.
The inspection report focused particularly on the attempts made by UKVI to investigate fraud and found that there were insufficient measures in place to ensure the right people were supported. It also criticised the complexity and volume of guidance relating to asylum support.
Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis said: “Asylum seekers often arrive in the UK having experienced significant trauma, with only the clothes on their back and the hope they have reached safety.
“They are not permitted to work or claim mainstream benefits and are forced to be totally dependant on the Government for help. As this inspection reveals, at several stages in the process until the Government accepts someone is destitute, they can be left without money to eat or a roof over their head.
“This problem is exacerbated by the Government’s insistence on running two separate systems of support for asylum seekers who are at different stages of the process. Obviously this incurs significant financial and human cost as increased bureaucracy, delays and mistakes inevitably result in people falling through the gaps.
“It’s unacceptable that charities are left to hand out sleeping bags to people who simply have nowhere to go until their support claim is processed, or because their support has been stopped too early.
“Nobody who’s fled persecution and can’t return to home should be left wondering where they’re going to sleep, or having to make the choice between feeding their families and visiting their lawyer.”