Letter: Asylum with dignity

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I welcome David Aaronovitch's article challenging those who scapegoat asylum-seekers in this country ("Who are these asylum-seeking scum? They're people like my grandparents", 15 December). The hardship endured here by asylum-seekers is a national disgrace. I believe that an array of practical measures to promote humanitarian dignity and equal respect are crucial at this time.

The Government's decision to proceed with the withdrawal of all cash benefits for asylum-seekers is a policy of blame, which will condemn asylum- seekers to untold further hardship. The Government's intentions are disturbing. As set out in July's White Paper, the expensive, segregated provision of last resort without choice, cash or autonomy at a location subject to the whim of an official, within a framework of deference, is the spectre of the Poor Law. This proposed administrative system runs a high risk of stigmatisation, social isolation, down-grading and institutional neglect. Secondly, to quote the shambolic experience under the National Assistance Act as evidence, to scrap all cash benefits is a grave insult.

The Government is now looking with local authorities for local consortia to step in as an interim measure to push for the dispersal of asylum-seekers across the country. This is a "less bad option" than having an inefficient Home Office-led agency centre-stage, but likely effects are to place asylum- seekers in isolated hard-to-let estates with inadequate resources, and to leave many others in dire need, relying on begging and charity.

TERRY PATTERSON

Committee for Non-Racist Benefits

Manchester

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