28 days to destitution: turbulent transition is leaving new refugees in poverty
A raft of red tape, inefficiencies among government departments and administrative delays are leaving refugees unable to work and forced to survive on help from charities.
There is only a 28-day window for an asylum seeker to make the transition to refugee once they have been given status or leave to remain. After this point, all state support is terminated.
But a report by the British Red Cross reveals this convoluted process is fraught with delays and complications and in many cases takes much longer than a month – leaving people with no financial support, no permission to work and even homeless.
Head of British Red Cross policy, advocacy and research, Jonathan Ellis, said: “Refugees are here because they have experienced the trauma of violence or persecution and cannot return home.
“Destitution is not an acceptable side-effect of being given permission to live in this country in safety.”
The report uncovered 23 separate factors and inefficiencies that contribute to the delays.
These range from vital documents being lost by the Department of Work and Pensions to poorly trained job centre staff wrongly turning refugees away. Key documents that simplify the process, such as a National Insurance number, can also arrive too late.
Without access to state support or the labour market, refugees have to rely on food parcels, crisis grants from the Red Cross and the kindness of the local community.
The Red Cross is calling for an extension to the transition period to ease the bureaucratic burden on refugees. But it also believes better training of Job Centre staff, wider awareness of the Department of Work and Pensions guidelines on the process and clearer communication with refugees themselves are simple ways to reduce delays.
“After the strain of navigating through our failing asylum system, people should not be subjected to the frustration, stress and destitution highlighted in this report,” said Ellis.
“We now want to work with government to turn these recommendations into reality and end this unnecessary suffering.”
To read the full report, go to: www.redcross.org.uk/moveonreport