February deadline is dead, but asylum is still a 'torture test'

The February 2011 deadline for asylum-seekers' accommodation is "effectively dead", says housing charity PAIH, but PAIH Director Robina Qureshi says "asylum policy in the UK remains a torture test for would be refugees."

Statement from Positive Action in Housing, 25 November 2010

Press Statement Regarding Cancelling of UKBA Letter To 600 Glasgow Refugee Families by Damian Green, Immigration Minister Following Meeting With Glasgow MPs - Reinstate the Glasgow Asylum Contract

We understand that Glasgow MPs say immigration minister Damien Green has cancelled a letter forcing asylum seekers out of their home with 3 days notice. We understand from Glasgow City Council sources that the UKBA now recognise the timetable is unachievable. Negotiations between them and the Council, GHA and Y people are to continue. Council officers are trying to point out the merits of the existing contract and the risks of terminating it. More information will be provided by Friday 26 November.

A Council source today informed Positive Action in Housing that:

"It is important to remember that this is not just about accommodation. Glasgow Council has a dedicated and well qualified/trained team who act as gateway to whole range of services from council and other bodies - social work, education, translation, medical services. Ypeople (YMCA) are not equipped to handle the larger numbers and already rely on council services and support. Angel Group cannot get even the accommodation right far less provide any support."

Robina Qureshi, Director, Positive Action in Housing, said:

"We welcome the fact that the Immigration Minister has cancelled the UK Borders Agency's potential eviction letter to 600 Glasgow refugee families which threatened to put them out of their homes inside three days. The February 2011 deadline is effectively dead. We now hope that he will also consider whether it is right and proper to put families into accommodation provided by private landlords when there are growing concerns about these agencies’ ability to provide accommodation and support similar to the Council.

"The Council, similar to the city’s refugee support groups, clearly has concerns about the ability and competence of private landlords contracted to the UKBA, to handle a contract involving vulnerable families.

"Positive Action in Housing remains concerned about the health and safety of vulnerable families and the sick, elderly and disabled people if they are transferred to poorly regulated and substandard accommodation run by unscrupulous private landlords whose sole motivation is profit. We believe that Glasgow City Council is the best housing and support service for the refugee families.

"However, if the contract is not going to be reinstated with the Council, then we believe that Glasgow’s registered social Landlords are a safer, more reliable and better regulated alternative s. Certainly their health and safety record in housing vulnerable people is impeccable.

"We remain committed that if any families are moved against their will or even one child is forced to move school then we, alongside our extensive networks of supporters, will publicly support and advocate for each and every family, and have the resources ready to do so.

"The UK Borders Agency has underestimated the strength of feeling about the agency’s actions on Scottish soil. From the hundreds of emails and letters we are getting from the public, people are disgusted. Members within the Jewish community have also raised comparisons with what happened to Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany.

"Asylum policy in the UK remains a torture test for would be refugees. The psychological torture lies in a UK asylum policy that claims to offer sanctuary then systematically treats vulnerable people like criminals and liars. Their most basic human rights are violated. People seeking asylum are amongst the poorest of the poor, they are forbidden to work; they humiliated by being forced to take benefits that are up to 45% below what UK citizens get, they are marked out in shops when the use the “Azure card”, they must ‘spend’ the card as soon as they get it, they are forbidden to save up for things like their children’s school uniforms because the money on the card is invalidated after a matter of days, they risk falling into destitution at any point in the asylum process and no homeless unit or soup kitchen is allowed to help them. They live in the housing no one else wants. Those houses will lie empty again if they are forced to vacate now. Throughout their asylum claim they face the threat of destitution, detention or deportation. They can languish in such a system for seven years without reprieve. Their mental health is often severely affected as a result – something that rarely happened before they arrived in this country.

"The asylum system attacks human dignity. Many people seeking asylum escaped and survived torture, multiple rape or seeing their loved ones killed, and endured the pain of separation from their young children in order to find peace, democracy and liberty - words that regularly ring out to countries around the world from the BBC World Service no less. The mental torture is the realisation that they risked their lives and left their family, home and country, for nothing, only to find themselves vilified as social parasites by the country and to find anything but peace, democracy and liberty. Those words must seem so hollow given the treatment they received at the hands of the UK borders Agency and its privately contracted cohorts.

ENDS

"We urge everyone who supports this campaign to please keep up the pressure and keep sending in your messages of support . We will pass them on".

Appeal for funds for Positive Action in Housing

Positive Action in Housing needs funding to continue its campaigning and humanitarian work. Otherwise, we face severe cuts to frontline services in 2011. Please support our work and donate what you can. You can send a cheque made out to PAIH Ltd and post to Positive Action in Housing, 98 West George Street Glasgow . Alternatively give an online single or monthly donation at www.justgiving.com/paih/donate. Just Giving reclaims Gift Aid automatically and pays donations to us directly at the end of every week. The site is 100% secure. Donate securely online at www.justgiving.com/paih/donate