Destitution in the asylum and immigration process has to end


This article by Lisa Matthews, Right to Remain Coordinator, was originally written for the newsletter of End Destitution NI, hosted by PPR in Belfast.

Right to Remain’s vision is a world in which everyone can exercise their right to remain with dignity and humanity, where they need to be.

We work with communities, groups and organisations across the UK, helping people to navigate the UK’s confusing and hostile asylum and immigration system. 

We produce the Right to Remain Toolkit, a self-help and solidarity guide to the legal process and taking action for the right to stay. And we campaign to change the immigration and asylum system, because it denies people their fundamental rights and their humanity.

Our main area of campaigning is on immigration detention (see the These Walls Must Fall website), but we also join with others to campaign against destitution.

No one should be destitute. In the modern world, and in a wealthy country, it is quite simply an ideological choice that people are homeless and/or without the very basics people need to live a decent life. We are against destitution – no matter someone’s nationality or immigration status – because this prevents people from living with dignity and humanity. 

For people navigating the asylum and immigration system, destitution presents particular challenges. We campaign against destitution in the asylum and immigration system because it is yet another barrier to people establishing their legal rights.

Without secure, decent and sustainable housing, important letters from lawyers or the Home Office can go astray. Delays in responding to decisions or letters can be fatal to a legal case.

It is very difficult for people to keep evidence, documents and personal information safe and organised if their living situation is chaotic or precarious. If someone is worrying about where they will sleep that night, or where their next meal will come from, or if they can afford to buy their child a birthday present, it is very hard for them to concentrate on their legal case.

Almost all people navigating the asylum and immigration system will need to do work themselves on their case – even with a good lawyer, you will have tasks to do. This takes time, head space and resources which people who are destitute rarely have.

With so many cuts to legal aid, people increasingly have to use the little money they have on legal fees: paying for a lawyer’s advice/representation; paying extortionate application fees; paying to obtain vital evidence for their case.

The solutions are not complicated. Currently, almost all people seeking asylum in the UK are barred from working. We are part of a coalition calling on the government to “Lift the Ban” on working – the evidence of the benefits of the right to work, for individuals and society, is very clear.

We do not believe that someone’s immigration status should be a relevant factor in whether they can find employment. For those unable to work, access to the welfare state should be provided.

The policy of destitution is a political choice. While it exists, solidarity and support groups and committed volunteers are doing vital work keeping people alive, keeping people together with hosting, food banks and other support. It’s likely to be an uphill struggle getting policy wins in the current political climate, but we believe that humanity will win out.   


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Please note Right to Remain cannot provide immigration legal advice that is specific to your individual asylum and immigration application.

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