Asylum-seekers 'forced into prostitution' by support system failures

Homeless refugees left to fend for themselves as they wait for decision on their future, claims report

Child asylum seekers are living in destitiution in Britain – with their mothers forced into prositution – because of failures in the support system, a Parliamentary report has found.

Homeless refugee mothers and newborns are being left unsupported by the Government while awaiting a decision on their applications for asylum status, according to the inquiry.

Parents fleeing persecution in their homelands have even been forced to starve themselves in order to feed their children, the panel heard.

Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather who chaired the investigation, said members of the panel felt ashamed and appalled by the testimony of asylum seekers, saying their treatment in the UK bordered on the inhumane.

“Leaving children and their families with no money to catch a bus, make a phone call, or buy basic goods seems senseless,” she said.

The Inquiry into Asylum Support for Children and Young People, supported by The Children's Society, which heard from more than 200 refugees, witnesses and organisations, also concluded the support system for families applying for refugee status may be leading to greater infant mortality and maternal deaths during pregnancy.

During one hearing, charity Refugee Action said it had supported clients who have “engaged in begging, transactional relationships and prostitution in order to access cash and alleviate poverty”.

The British Red Cross, which assists 10,000 destitute refugees and asylum seekers, said 20% of those were families with small children.

The Scottish Refugee Council reported that during one week in March last year 148 asylum seekers were destitute in Glasgow alone, including 11 families with 21 children, five pregnant women and two new mothers.

 “I would buy one meal which I would share with my son. My son is my priority, therefore I will provide his nutritional needs before my own and occasionally starving myself” one asylum seeker mother told the panel.

Another new mother was forced to walk home from hospital in snow after giving birth with her baby in her arms because she had no money to buy a buggy or pay for a taxi.

In November, an 11-year-old carer to whom it fell to do all the housework, cooking and interpreting for her disabled mother, said they had been left without money under the current asylum support system. The girl, Riyya told the inquiry, “My mum couldn’t go [to sign in] every single week because of her disability, and if we don’t go we can’t get the money which meant a lot of the times we didn’t have any money… it took around three or four months for them to realise.”

There are an estimated 10,000 children living on asylum support in the UK, including 800 on the Section 4 programme, which is intended for refused asylum-seeking adults. Under Section 4, refused asylum seekers may only live in designated accommodation and instead of cash they receive money to a value of £35.39 on an ‘Azure card’, which can only be used at designated outlets to buy food, essential toiletries and other items.

Evidence heard during the inquiry called into question whether the Home Secretary Theresa May was meeting her duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children subject to immigration control, under the UN Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC).

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children's Society said: "Thousands of children and families are being abandoned and literally left destitute because the system is failing them. Children and their families are being forced to live in appalling conditions that are unacceptable by anybody's standards. No child, no matter who they are or where they're from, should be treated with such a complete lack of human dignity."

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: “Our asylum support system meets the needs of asylum seekers and we take the welfare of children and families extremely seriously. No-one need face destitution if they comply with the law and the decisions of the courts and go home when required to do so.”

Case study: 'Maria' in the north east of England

I came to England nearly three years ago because I faced discrimination from the authorities where I came from as I was a different religion.

My son who is under 10 years old is ‘stateless’, he is not a national of any country. I’ve been moved to a lot of different places during the time of my asylum seeking process. Every time I have to change my life.

I receive letter suddenly giving seven days’ then you have to leave everything behind and start from zero, changing school, doctors, environment, everything. With our housing there is no privacy, housing people just enter the flats and wouldn’t care that people live there.

When I came out of bathroom once I found a male person standing in my living room. There is no respect for us. I think I would be able to support myself a little bit better if I could work but I’m not allowed.

I’m on antidepressants and under mental health services. I don’t see any hope for me and my son.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones