Asylum charities seek changes to borders bill

Charities supporting asylum seekers will today attempt to secure a radical change in the law that would allow failed asylum seekers to gain access to accommodation and financial support.

The Still Human Still Here coalition, whose members include the Refugee Council, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and Church Action on Poverty, has persuaded Labour deputy leadership candidate Jon Cruddas to table an amendment to the UK Borders Bill.

The amendment, which will be debated during the bill's report stage in the Commons today, is designed to keep people whose asylum applications have failed from becoming destitute.

Failed asylum seekers are currently barred from receiving financial and housing support. They are also not entitled to work and have no access to healthcare or education while they join the deportation backlog, return to their countries of origin voluntarily or challenge decisions made by the Home Office.

Still Human Still Here says this has led to thousands becoming destitute. It also says starvation is being used to force people to return home voluntarily.

"Many countries won't accept them back," said Alan Thornton, campaign officer at Church Action on Poverty. The coalition also fears people will be compelled to return to countries where they will face persecution and torture.

The amendment would allow people access to support until their situation is resolved. "It changes the definition of 'asylum seeker' for the purposes of accessing support," said Anna Reisenberger, chief executive of the Refugee Council. "It would end destitution at a stroke."

The coalition said that it would seek to re-table the amendment in the Lords if today's attempt were to fail.

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