Last chance for asylum seekers: Letter

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The Independent Online
Sir: Today peers have one last chance to decide whether it is right to remove all means of subsistence from asylum seekers who flee repressive regimes in fear of their lives and freedom to seek a safe haven in Britain.

Citizens' Advice Bureaux know that fear, ignorance of procedures, natural anxiety and disorientation are among the many reasons why genuine asylum seekers may not apply for refugee status as soon as they set foot in this country. CAB have also seen at first hand the extent of the hardship caused by the withdrawal of benefits from asylum seekers in February. One London CAB, for instance, reported the case of an Iraqi couple with two small children. The man had been imprisoned in Iraq for political activity, but the family was refused all benefits because they sought asylum not at their port of entry, but later the same day at the Home Office department in Croydon. They had nothing to live on until the CAB helped get them pounds 55 a week in emergency payments from the local authority under the Children Act.

The new Lords' amendment simply provides the minimum protection that is acceptable in a civilised society. Should it fail, many genuine asylum seekers will be put at grave risk. It is to be hoped that once again peers will stand up for basic human rights in what is essentially a test of our common humanity as a nation.

ANN ABRAHAM

National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux

London N1

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