A Damning report into the issues facing asylum seekers in Belfast entitled 'A Prison without Walls: Asylum, Migration, and Human Rights' was released today (18th June 2019) during refugee week at a public event. The research, which involved conducting surveys with 70 asylum seekers, was carried out by the Housing4All campaign group supported by PPR. 

Key findings of the report include:

  • 78% of respondents reported mental ill-health, with 77% describing it worsening since entering the asylum process;
  • 79% reported being unable to afford enough food;
  • 71% of asylum seeker parents who responded reported being unable to afford school uniforms for their children;
  •  31% of asylum seekers surveyed stated that their home was not safe, liveable or secure;
  • 7% of respondents have absolutely no means of financial support – excluded from all Home Office issued financial support, and banned from working under UK law.

The report identifies key areas in which devolved institutions in Northern Ireland can counter the impacts of UK legislation and policy, and deliver improved living conditions for asylum seekers.

Among these recommendations are:

·         To provide every asylum seeker with a full social services assessment before they are allocated dispersal accommodation;

·         The removal of barriers to access to emergency accommodation for asylum seekers who are appealing a refusal of their application [4];

·         An increase the school uniform allowance to at least £100 p.a. per child;

·         Free school meals during holidays to children of asylum seeker families;

·         All devolved institutions to facilitate a “Timebanking” [5] type scheme to allow asylum seekers to volunteer their time in return for goods and services.

Speaking on behalf of H4All, Sipho Sibanda said:

“When an asylum seeker’s claim is refused their accommodation support is withdrawn, even if they plan to make an appeal. Because asylum seekers have no access to public funds, they are left on the streets. The Home Office has created a system of enforced destitution but local bodies can subvert the hostile environment by removing barriers to accessing homeless hostels using their devolved powers in relation to housing. We call on the Department for Communities and Northern Ireland Housing Executive to act and protect this vulnerable group of people.”

Aylisha Hogan from PPR said:

“The Home Office – through their Hostile Environment Policies – has created a system that deliberately punishes and causes harm to people seeking asylum. We are supporting Housing4All in their campaign because everyone deserves to lead a dignified life and that is all they are asking for. People should be concerned by the appalling the way the Home Office is treating asylum seekers. We are talking about people who have literally fled war and persecution. They have come here seeking safety but Home Office policies only seek to cause them further harm. Our devolved institutions have the power to act to protect asylum seekers and they must act now.”

You can read the final version of our report here: