Northern Ireland has around 50 individuals at any one time who are destitute because of their asylum status. This means that they have no adequate accommodation, are unable to meet their other essential living needs, and have no means to do so. This fund celebrates the compassion, public spirit, selflessness, generosity, leadership, civic engagement, ethos of service that these individuals are representing in our community.
‘Destitute asylum seekers’ are asylum seekers whose claims have been refused by the UK Home Office. When asylum seekers are ‘refused’, they have ‘no recourse to public funds’ and are left without any public support – they have 21 days to leave their housing, they lose the £38 per week which is given to asylum seekers, and they are not legally able to earn any income. They experience enforced destitution, as part of the ‘hostile environment’ policy designed to discourage immigration to the UK.
Being refused, however, does not mean that an asylum seeker’s chances of being granted asylum have been exhausted. In fact, asylum seekers can move in and out of the asylum process on multiple occasions.
Research carried out by Housing4All in 2014 among destitute asylum seekers in Belfast found that 63% had been homeless on more than one occasion since seeking asylum in Northern Ireland, and 50% of these individuals had been homeless on more than three occasions.
It is very hard to track the number of destitute asylum seekers at any point in time, but agencies working on the issue in Belfast agree that it is typically 50 to 100 people.
Very few agencies are in a position to provide support to destitute asylum seekers, because of a perception that they cannot receive the benefit of any government funding, in a charity environment where most charities are reliant on government funding.
Thanks to an initial donor, with subsequent donations from others, the Community Foundation operates a small fund to benefit destitute asylum seekers.
You can donate to the Fund here.