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
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions