It’s been a long week of increasingly horrific news reports about the state of the UK’s asylum system.

For a long time now, we’ve witnessed a sustained attack on the right to seek asylum in the UK. Hand in hand with this has been the government’s wilful neglect of the system itself, which has been allowed to fall into a state of chaos and crisis, accelerated by:

  • The accumulated impact of hostile environment policies, now totally ingrained in government thinking, acting and speaking about asylum
  • Long term under-resourcing of asylum decision making teams, leading to a jaw dropping backlog of 100,000 people waiting for a decision on their right to remain here
  • Increasingly depraved language used to talk about *people* seeking refugee protection
  • New laws to dismantle the right we all have to seek asylum and to punish people for seeking safety here

It’s relentless.

We haven’t just sat by and watched this happen, we’ve raged about it, campaigned against it, lobbied politicians and those in power to do something about it, at the same time carrying on with our core work of supporting the people and communities who are directly, personally experiencing the sharp end of it.

  • People living on £40 a week without the right to work to support themselves
  • Families waiting years for a decision on the right to remain here
  • Children moving from school to school as they are shifted around temporary accommodation
  • Pregnant women and new mums, infants, babies stuck in hotel rooms
  • People trying to recover from many layers of trauma

We, like most people working in the refugee sector, are an independent charity with limited resources. We are stretched in all directions, motivated deeply to help people and to build a welcoming, inclusive, functioning society. Our helpline is busier than it’s ever been. Our support service for families in the asylum system is working with many more people than anticipated.

When people are not able to move on through the asylum system to a new stage of life, to find some security and solid ground under their feet, the impact is massive. It’s obscene to deliberately hold so many people in this state of acute anxiety and prolonged, enforced poverty. It also impacts on organisations like ours, and all the other charities, grassroots groups and support services doing their best to knit together a support system to maintain people’s dignity, sanity and hope.

When the headlines show up the current state of the asylum system, we try to stop and think before we respond. Of course we see the chaos, we see the crisis. We see and feel the impact of this every day. But chaos and crisis are the very words that are used to justify even more hostility and dismantling of the system, and further stigmatizing and dehumanising of those affected. We know a lot of people see the images and reports of people crammed into prison-like holding facilities in Kent and think, what a mess, shut it all down, shut people out. Asylum is presented as too big and overwhelming a problem for the government to solve or for ordinary people, with so many other things to worry about, to cope with. It is often hard to find the right words to respond. To not just add to all the noise around this issue, which we in fact don’t see as ‘an issue’, we see as an affront to the dignity and decency of us all.

Please join us in our efforts to build a better future for people seeking safety in Scotland.

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Pauline D
Author: Pauline D