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Four out of five asylum seekers ‘live in poverty’

HUNGRY, destitute and living in overcrowded flats in constant fear of a dawn raid. That is the reality of life for many of Scotland’s asylum seekers, says a report.

The Glasgow charity Positive Action in Housing paints an alarming picture of the conditions faced by hundreds of families who have come to Scotland to escape torture and persecution.

Pregnant Quin is too terrified to go home

ALONE, homeless and six months pregnant, Quin Chen must wait another month before she has a legal right to a roof over her head.

As a failed asylum seeker she is denied any state protection – but she is too frightened to return home to China because she says she and her parents were persecuted simply for being Christians.

The 23-year-old has been unable to contact her parents and is convinced they have been arrested. She worries she could be too if she is sent back.

Quin was told last month her asylum application had been turned down. She says she is still unclear about the reason for rejection and is hoping to lodge an appeal.

Without Positive Action in Housing Quin would almost certainly be sleeping rough.

Initially, two weeks’ temporary accommodation was arranged with two city families through the charity’s volunteer service. The charity is now paying for Quin to stay in the Euro hostel until a new volunteer comes forward.

Quin said: “If I had not got help from Positive Action and the people they know, I do not know what I would have done. I had nowhere and nobody to go to. I am so grateful for the help I have received. I am very afraid to go back to China.”

Case worker David Reilly said: “We would appeal to Glasgow residents to volunteer for our temporary accommodation service. We ask people to give someone a room for only a week at a time.”

Any volunteers should telephone 0141 353 2220.

In its report, out today, it says more than four out of five people (around 81%) of those who approached the charity for help between March 2006 and March this year were on or below the poverty line.

More than one in three people were in accommodation that was “severely overcrowded”, with most facing an average two-year wait for suitable housing. Some waited up to five years.

It gave one example of nine Lithuanians sharing two rooms.

Many failed asylum seekers face homelessness. The report said 39% of people the charity helped had no roof over their head.

Positive Action in Housing says it gives out hundreds of pounds of donations in an attempt to stop people ending up on the streets.

Whenever possible, it will book people into city hostels, but some hostels refuse to admit asylum seekers.

Often it is left to Glaswegian families to offer them a room and the charity is appealing for more volunteers to share their homes.

Throughout the year the charity stepped in to find emergency accommodation for 228 people forced into destitution.

Most of these cases were asylum seekers who, on having their claims rejected, had their rights to benefits and a roof over their heads, withdrawn.

Asylum seekers also reported living in fear of Home Office snatch squads’, who take families from their homes to a detention centre to wait to be deported.

The report says: “The Home Office keeps making noises about making dawn raids humane. But little has changed. 1100 long- term asylum families, many of whom have been here for over six years, continue to face the fear of dawn raids’.

“Young children generally stay up from 6am onwards daily, in fear of these snatch squads. Scottish tenants have begun to organise daily dawn patrols in communities like Glasgow’s Kingsway and Sighthill to protect their refugee neighbours.”


Let them work, says city MSP

By Brian Currie

ASYLUM seekers should be allowed to work, a Glasgow MSP told the Scottish Parliament.

Sandra White urged MSPs to back Glasgow City Council’s view that they could contribute to the economy.

Leading a Holyrood debate, the MSP said “the myth of asylum seekers as simply benefit seekers” should be dispelled.

She said many people wrongly thought of asylum seekers as scroungers claiming benefits.

“Asylum seekers want to work and research has shown the money generated for the local economy would far outweigh the cost of providing benefits,” she said.

“Furthermore, many asylum seekers are highly skilled. Recent figures show there are more than 900 doctors, 150 nurses and 100 dentists unable to seek work.

“The current skills shortage in some professions, particularly health, has led to the bizarre situation of running recruitment schemes abroad to fill these positions when, by granting asylum seekers the right to work, we could go some way toward solving this problem.”

7:48am Friday 7th September 2007

By Wendy Miller

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