As we approach the end of year a stark reality for us all is the status of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. It is impossible to ignore the scenes of devastation as families and children are fleeing from their war torn countries and flocking into the EU, in the search of sanctuary.
Whist we are in horror at what is happening in both Calais’s Jungle and Lesbos the situation is worsening.
Here @bodysoulcharity we are see on a grassroots level the effect of cuts on asylum support and lack of housing provision as the EU fights even more actively against migrants, more focused on securing borders than protecting the rights of migrants and refugees.
Take the case of one of our members E, a women of 48, fled Uganda after death threats, her son killed for being homosexual, her home burnt to the ground and a victim of rape.
She was known as an over stayer, this means no access to public fund. When she became known to Body & Soul her health was extremely poor- advanced metastasis breast cancer, pneumonia and poorly controlled HIV. Our job was to ensure she received the best help possible. Firstly, this meant identifying her immigration status; finding an immigration solicitor and setting up a meeting with the Home Office in Croydon. This was her only chance of being granted asylum. Anyone with any experience of the Immigration service Home Office will know that this building is as impenetrable as Darth Vader. In fact on two occasions she was told she was in the wrong building, if it had not been for the case worker accompanying her, she would never have been able to even enter the building to make a claim.
As a member at Body & Soul, E was able to access support on a physical and emotional level: seeing a nutritionist; having Reiki once a week; receiving support the case work team and gaining vital psychological support. Also, E was able to connect with other members facing some of the same challenges.
Once a claim was made, E was able to receive chemotherapy and this bought us four weeks to fight her case. Our next port of call was to request support from social services on the basis of E being a “vulnerable adult”. After 4 weeks she would be made homeless on being released from hospital, a clear breach of Human Rights. Despite the support from our in-house housing solicitor a strong referral to social services was ignored. After many protracted attempts to get an answer from social services, our case worker was finally able to get temporary housing in a B & B for 4 months under the care of a social worker. Things were looking good, E was very grateful. Our case workers continued to fight for her.
However, the Home Office and local authorities have established an increasingly robust front door policy. E’s asylum was rejected; her health had deteriorated rapidly, despite a strong case and social services, doctors and solicitors advocating her case. Asylum was now being sought on medical grounds-under Article 8 of the EU convention.
What was ensuing can be described as nothing more than tragic, despite a strong case on a basic Human Rights level, she was given TEN DAYS to leave the country, ten days not even two weeks.
She died before the ten days were out.
This is just one of the many cases that represent our members, terrified for their lives, living in constant fear of refusal, rejection and removal.
In other cases similar to the above, they are dealt with less care than animals, and the same bureaucracy as a parking ticket. Human beings seeking asylum from their countries for exactly the same reason as those in Lesbos or Calais. They may have made it further down the line but their lives are also marked with an inexplicable fear for their survival.