Bishop attacks 'inhuman' asylum rules

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The Independent Online

The Archbishop of York yesterday condemned government policies that leave asylum-seekers homeless and with no financial support as "inhuman".

Dr John Sentamu, Britain's first black archbishop, who was enthroned last week, led a number of UK religious leaders in calling for the Government to change policies that they said "victimise" asylum-seekers. The archbishop and 44 bishops and church leaders claimed that the threat of destitution was being used as a way of pressurising refused asylum-seekers to leave the country. Asylum-seekers are not allowed to work for the first 12 months of their application and those refused asylum are not entitled to benefits.

Their letter said many asylum-seekers were refused the right to stay in the UK and had no way of returning home. Others, they say, are "unfairly denied" asylum.

The letter also spoke of our "international, moral and legal responsibilities to welcome those fleeing adversity from other parts of the world and provide social security".

"All those within our borders, including people seeking asylum, whatever their status, should have the opportunity to help themselves and society through paid employment. Where this is not possible, people seeking asylum, whatever their status, should be given the necessary rights to 'food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services' (UN Declaration of Human Rights)," the church leaders wrote.

A Home Office spokesman insisted that there was support available for failed asylum-seekers who had been left destitute.

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