The government has been accused of routinely denying support to asylum seekers, leaving them homeless and unable to feed their families, following analysis of more than 300 recent cases.
Research conducted by Refugee Action found that the Home Office was missing its own deadlines for finding emergency accommodation for homeless and destitute asylum seekers, and in some cases wrongly refusing those who make claims for emergency assistance.
In one case, it took more than 10 months to make a decision on whether to grant an applicant asylum support – so long that the person had already received refugee status.
Asylum seekers interviewed for the report say these errors have had dire consequences, including forcing families to stay in accommodation deemed not fit for habitation, with leaking toilets or no heating.
One mother and her child reported sleeping on the floor because it was the only place they could avoid being bitten by bed bugs; a pregnant woman was forced to choose between sleeping on a stranger’s sofa and sleeping in the street; at least one person has attempted suicide.
Refugee Action analysed 315 cases logged between January 2016 and March 2017 in which they or another refugee charity, Asylum Support Housing Advice (ASHA) in Manchester, helped asylum seekers to apply for support.
Asylum seekers are not allowed to work or receive mainstream benefits while they wait for a decision on their claim, but support is available to those who are destitute. Section 98 support helps provide emergency accommodation and board, while section 95 support is longer-term and entitles people to accommodation and an allowance of £36.95 per week.