Starved, homeless, destitute: the reality behind the tabloid hysteria

Submitted by Anon on 10 September, 2003 - 2:47

'S' did not apply for asylum on arrival at Heathrow Airport. He did not know that asylum could be claimed at passport controls in an airport. Instead, he applied for asylum the day after his arrival.
Under legislation which came into effect this January - which denies any form of assistance, including accommodation and even food, to asylum-seekers who do not apply for asylum on arrival - 'S' was refused support by the Home Office.

By the tenth week after his arrival 'S' had lost 14 kilogrammes in weight. His body mass index (BMI) was 16. A BMI of 19 or less is considered to be underweight and malnourished.

A second application for support for 'S' was rejected by the Home Office. If 'S' fell ill, the Home Office replied, "the Secretary of State is aware that medical treatment is always available at the Accident and Emergency Department of any hospital."

By this time, some four months after his arrival, 'S' was sleeping rough and begging for food in the streets. He was suffering from exhaustion, abdominal pains, stomach pains, and a swelling on his neck. He had lost further weight, and his stomach had become incapable of digesting more than a small amount of food.

Last month the High Court ruled that 'S' was a victim of inhuman and degrading treatment. His rights guaranteed under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been breached. The High Court therefore instructed the Home Office to begin providing 'S' with support.

Condemning asylum-seekers who do not apply for asylum on arrival to destitution is just one of the measures introduced-or proposed for introduction-by the government to turn the screw on asylum-seekers even tighter:

  • Asylum-seekers from 25 countries can no longer remain in this country while they wait for their appeal against a refusal of asylum to be heard. They are returned to their own country and their appeal is heard in their absence.
  • The appeal rights of asylum-seekers who have an in-country right of appeal are being eroded further. Many asylum-seekers can no longer apply for Judicial Review (replaced by 'statutory review'), and the government now proposes to replace the two-tier system of appeals by a single tier.
  • The government has proposed that Legal Help (formerly Legal Aid) for asylum-seekers be reduced to five hours for pre-decision work, and a further four hours for appeal work. If implemented, such proposals would lead to many lawyers dropping out of asylum work.
  • In the courts, judges are giving the government a helping hand as well. According to recent judgements, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iraq are now more or less 'safe' countries. M'learned colleagues have also decided that it's okay for asylum-seekers' human rights to be breached in their country of nationality, provided that the breaches do not amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.
  • More asylum-seekers are being detained than ever before. And with Yarls Wood due to re-open at the end of September, the number of detained asylum-seekers will soon increase even further.

The government is claiming 'victory' in its war against asylum-seekers. In October of last year 8,900 people applied for asylum in the UK. In June of this year, 3,600 did so. This, claims the government, is proof that 'the corner has been turned' in stemming the supposed flood of asylum-seekers into the UK.

But, inevitably, the racists to whom Labour is pandering in its unceasing crackdown on asylum-seekers are not satisfied.

The Tories are claiming that Labour has fiddled the figures. The right-wing think-tank Migrationwatch UK-which is not really a thinktank at all-is claiming that the UK remains the number-one destination in the world for asylum-seekers. And the Sun has launched a new anti-asylum campaign, claiming that asylum-seekers are "Britain's biggest crisis".

Labour is creating a 'Fortress Britain' within a 'Fortress Europe'. Against the bigotry, xenophobia and little-Englandism of the Labour government the Left must campaign for a UK with open borders in a Europe with open borders.

As for 'S', the Court of Appeal's judgement on the appeal lodged by the Home
Office - that its treatment of 'S' did not amount to inhuman and degrading treatment - is still awaited.

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