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Coronavirus Crisis Destitute Asylum Seekers Hostile Environment Wakefield District City of Sanctuary

Return to the Hostile Environment?

Earlier this year, we were told the home office no longer operated a hostile environment policy, but had renamed what they do as a “compliant environment”, in an attempt to counter criticism and claims of a cruel and inhumane policy.

It’s come to our attention, that one of our long term “Destitute Asylum Seekers” is being REQUIRED to report to the Waterside Home Office centre in Kirkstall, Leeds on a WEEKLY basis, during lockdown. He has been in this country for over 18 years now, came here to escape political unrest in Zimbabwe, but has repeatedly been refused permission to stay.

We say this is cruel and inhumane treatment. We have written to the local Wakefield MP, whose office tells us this is not happening. But it is. Every week. The stress and psychological damage this causes is just awful.

How essential is it to force people to make these journeys when the process was cancelled during the previous lock-down?

In order to make this journey, six public transport buses need to be taken from Wakefield to Kirkstall Road in Leeds. Usually, this cost has to be borne by a charity.

We are aware of one other person known to our charity who is being forced to do this. (if they don’t report, they are recorded as having “Absconded” and can be arrested).

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Coronavirus Crisis Wakefield District City of Sanctuary

An unforeseen result of the hostile environment.

An unforeseen result of the hostile environment.

When people claim asylum and ask for Home Office support, they start on a route which could potentially lead to safety and long-term security. Having fled war-torn areas, persecution and religious discrimination, people rapidly discover that their journey in Britain is fraught with difficulties. One of the main difficulties for asylum seekers is understanding the asylum process. Another, is understanding and interpreting the Home Office language and the implications of the written communications. Home Office communications invariably include phrases such as ‘you are liable to detention’ – which is very unnerving and frightening.

When people first seek asylum in this country, they do not realise they will not be able to work, or have a bank account, until they are accepted as refugees. This can take years. Even when people have been refused asylum and have no recourse to public funds, they are still not permitted to work. Having no right to employment traps all asylum seekers in poverty and this increases the likelihood of people experiencing mental and physical health issues.

When people first claim asylum and ask for Home Office for support, they are sent to Initial Accommodation. When their cases are assessed they are moved on to dispersed accommodation and receive £37.67 per week. They receive their benefit on an Aspen card which can be used at cash machines but not for online purchases. Dispersed asylum seekers don’t have to pay council tax or utility bills; however, the money is to cover all food, toiletries, cleaning material, clothing, transport and social activities.

Generally, dispersed accommodation for single people is multi occupancy and is furnished with the basic essentials. Each house has basic kitchen equipment, this may not always include a microwave or a vacuum cleaner. Nonetheless, the current local housing provider is working toward every person having their own room. Families are accommodated in houses or flats. In the Home Office contract for provision of dispersed accommodation there has never been a budget for TVs and licence’s, Wi-Fi connections or radios; across the country, dispersed asylum seekers as a matter of course are not connected to the outside world.

During the pandemic lockdown, the overall long-term effect of a hostile, or compliant environment has resulted in a very vulnerable community being left not just in isolation but isolated from the outside world. In the Yorkshire and Humberside area the dispersed asylum population are receiving paper notices in their own language. People are being given information and asked to stay in and stay safe. The housing provider is endeavouring to ensuring that asylum seekers have a basic phone. The asylum seekers who chose to afford phones and are able to get contracts via a third party, may be able to glean what is going on in the world, but sadly the majority of the asylum community are without access to world events.

Just for a moment can you imagine being in the position of not having computer access, TV, radio and only having a pay-as-you-go mobile. Now imagine being in a foreign country not knowing where your family is or how they are faring. Compound this with the uncertain of not knowing whether you will be believed and granted permission to stay in the country. Then factor in a pandemic.

Working with the relevant providers Wakefield District City of Sanctuary is encouraging people to help us to offer whatever is needed to make life for asylum seekers lives more tolerable.

For further details please contact wdcityofsanctuary@gmail.com go to www.cityofsanctuary/wakefield or ring/text 07800605397 – thank you.

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Coronavirus Crisis Wakefield District City of Sanctuary

Now we know how it feels …

Now we know how it feels to be an asylum seeker in the United Kingdom. Your life is controlled by the government.
You cannot go where you want to go
You are promised money to survive, but it’s really difficult to get it.
You are not allowed to work anymore, even if you can and want to.

In this time of Coronavirus lock down we suddenly find our world has changed, and nothing is as it used to be.

So many things we took for granted are no longer there or available.
We worry about finding enough food for ourselves and our families.

So many of our volunteers who gave up their time to help others now find themselves to be in the “vulnerable” category, and must stay at home.

The buildings where we used to meet are closed and with them, much of our resources.

Currently, we are still able to provide help in the way of clothing parcels, and food – we are grateful to our local Morrisons for continuing to donate food to us during this crisis.

We are campaigning for recently dispersed refugees to be given phones or other media, so they can stay in touch with the news – what could be worse than a lock down when you can’t even find out what is going on?

We thank all our supporters old and new, and hope you can all stay safe.

We will get through this 🙂