Withdrawal of Support for "In-Country" Asylum Applicants
New Labour's new Act, which has been described as worse than any immigration legislation dreamt up by the Conservatives, threatens to leave thousands of asylum seekers homeless and destitute.
In July this year the government removed the concession to work for asylum seekers, forcing people to survive on below poverty-level handouts and to live in difficult to let housing estates. From January 8th, even this housing and support will be withdrawn from applicants who do not make a claim for asylum “as soon as reasonably practicable” after arrival.
The onus will be on the asylum seeker to prove that a claim was made "as soon as reasonably practicable". The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) has issued no guidance as to the definition of "reasonably practicable", or what evidence will be required to prove this.
The only exceptions to this rule will be families with dependent children, people with "special needs" (undefined) and people claiming asylum "in-country" as a result of upheaval in their home country, so long as they can prove they made their claim as soon as possible after the change in circumstances.
There will be no right of appeal against a decision to withhold support.
It would appear that when the Act is implemented, most in-country asylum seekers will be excluded from NASS support. Although families with children will receive support, it appears that pregnant women will not qualify.
NASS predicts that around 100 applicants will be excluded from support every day. Refugee support organisations believe the figure is likely to be far higher.
The Act was rushed through parliament with little time allowed for debate. In the end, the only concession was over the planned large-scale rural accommodation centres.
Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights identified 22 possible breaches of human rights legislation. In time there may be legal challenges on these grounds, but meanwhile, from the 8th of January 2003, thousands of people each month, people who have fled persecution, war, and poverty, will be left to fend for themselves, homeless and destitute, with no support from the state.
These measures, along with the re-instatement of the notorious "white-list" of countries from where no asylum application will be entertained, is part of David Blunkett's plan for a "firmer and fairer" asylum system.
It is an attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society, denying them the most basic of the human rights