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What is it like to be a Destitute Asylum Seeker?

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When an asylum claim is refused the failed asylum seeker is "encouraged" to go home by being evicted, having their benefits stopped and by not being allowed to work. They are made destitute and street homeless without any money for food. Charities estimate that as many as a third of asylum claims are legally flawed meaning they should have succeeded in the first place but for a variety of reasons were refused. People who had a legitimate claim to asylum are being made street homeless and are in desperate need of help.


Hamza is a destitute asylum seeker living in one of our refugee properties.

     I first came to the UK in 2015. I claimed asylum and was given NASS accommodation and support whilst my claim was being decided. It took them 7 or 8 months to make a decision. The Home Office wrote to me to let me know that my claim was being refused.

     I appealed against the decision and again my claim was refused. I was then given 2 weeks to leave NASS accommodation and I had nowhere to go. I was forced to sleep on the streets. I was scared. I had no food. I had no money. I did not know what to do.  Sometimes I was in a position to sleep on a friend’s sofa but at other times I had to sleep rough. I would sleep anywhere I could where it was dry and safe. I feared for my life. I did not sleep much as a result. I did not know what might happen. Lots of people around me were drinking and taking drugs and I just did not know what they could do to me in my sleep. 

     I went to the Red Cross to ask for help. They helped me out with £20 per week for three months and they referred me to Hope Projects to see if I could be housed.  Hope projects found me a room in a house in Wolverhampton. When I was told about this by the Red Cross, I felt very happy. I like it very much where I am living now. I have my own room. I have Kate who helps look after me. Kate is very good. She has helped me to get into college to learn English and I can talk to her when I need to. I am in the process of submitting a fresh claim once I have gathered together the evidence that I need. Once the fresh claim has been submitted I will be eligible again for s4 support, NASS accommodation and some money from the government. At that point I will have to move back into NASS accommodation which could be anywhere. Sadly I do not get to choose. If I do get my papers then I would like to move back to Wolverhampton and I hope that there will be a room available with Hope into Action: Black Country. Without the help of people like HiABC I would have nothing and would still be living on the streets.

I was forced to sleep on the streets. I was scared. I had no food. I had no money. I did not know what to do !

Hamza, destitute asylum seeker
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Hope into Action: Black Country is partnered with Hope Projects as part of the Hope Partnership cross Birmingham and the Black Country for the purpose of providing housing to destitute asylum seekers. Hope Projects provides housing, legal advice and crisis cash grants to asylum seekers made destitute by flawed refusals of asylum. To find out more about the work of Hope Projects across Birmingham and the Black Country following the link here.

What is destitution ?

     “Refugee charities talk about ‘destitution’; an odd, Victorian sounding word. That’s because asylum destitution is a particular, and particularly cruel, situation.

     Everyone has the right to claim asylum if they are outside their own country and fear returning home. That doesn’t mean they will be given asylum. In Britain the Home Office, through the notoriously complicated asylum system, decides whether they believe that a claim is ‘well founded’. If ’Yes’, you can stay as a refugee. If ‘No’, you have to go home. To ‘encourage’ this, the refused asylum seeker is evicted from their home, all their benefits are stopped and they are refused permission to work. They are destitute. Street homeless and without even the money to buy food. In any circumstances this seems utterly wrong but to make things worse, the system often gets it wrong. People with good reason to be terrified of returning home get refused and are left in the most appalling situation. Terrified of return, unable to sustain themselves here. They are allowed to submit further evidence to try to get their claim reconsidered, but how do you pursue that while you don’t know where your next meal is coming from? When you have nowhere but the streets to sleep? Women in particular are left at appalling risk of exploitation.

     All homelessness is a scandal, but asylum destitution stands apart. It is not an accident; it is not caused by people ‘falling though the system’. Refused asylum seekers, like Hamza are left destitute as a deliberate act of policy. They are meant to be destitute, and that stands as a challenge, and a reproach, to us all”.

Phil Davis, Coordinator of Hope Projects


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We are also members of NACCOM, the UK-wide No Accommodation Network. NACCOM represents a network of organisations seeking to prevent destitution amongst migrants with no recourse to public funds. To find out more click here.