Conclusions:Life for refused asylum seekers who cannot be returned is bleak. They may be homeless or sofa-surfing, hungry or lacking adequate clothing. They may be struggling to access some form of healthcare. They are often experiencing all of these things. They currently have no, or an extremely limited, chance of regularisation of their status. Asylum support options are not accessible to them and this issue is likely to worsen under Section 95A. Without support, these people are vulnerable to exploitation and they are likely to drop off the radar, making it even less likely that they can be returned.
This group is stuck living in limbo. They are considered to have no right to remain in the UK, but they cannot be returned, and many stay in the country for extended periods of time. The Red Cross believes it is inhumane to abandon these people, leaving them to live in destitution for years, with no recognition of the suffering they face.
5.1 Recommendations for the Home Office
Recommendation 1 Refused asylum seekers who cannot return home due to such issues as lack of documentation should not be made destitute.
Families who cannot be returned The Home Office should keep pregnant women and families with children on Section 95 support, regardless of their status, to prevent destitution and safeguard the best interests of the children involved.
Single adults who cannot be returned and are applying for Section 95A The Home Office should:
1. Provide clear, realistic and practical guidelines on what is considered as appropriate evidence of them taking reasonable steps to obtain a travel document. The guidelines should:
- Be specific to the person’s country of origin, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.
- Be clear as to what form of contact is acceptable – written, telephone or inperson – and specify what is considered acceptable evidence of such contact.
- Specify how many times a person is expected to attempt to contact the relevant embassy (or embassies) to request a travel document, within reasonable parameters.
2. Expect a person to apply for AVR only once they are in possession of the necessary travel document specified for their country of origin in the Home Office Country Returns Guide (Home Office 2016b). Only then will it be feasible to limit people to one AVR application and expect them to leave before the application expires.
3. Suspend the policy of regularly reviewing an individual’s support when there is evidence that the person has done everything in their power to comply with re-documentation procedures.
4. Re-instate the right of appeal for those who are refused Section 95A support.
5. Allow people who cannot be returned to apply for Section 95A at any time, removing the restriction of only being able to apply within the 21-day grace period.
6. Take measures to ensure people who cannot be returned do not fall through the safety net when making the transition from Section 95 to Section 95A.
Keeping this group on support will prevent destitution and protect them from potential exploitation.
Recommendation 2 The Home Office should share the burden of proof for taking reasonable steps to obtain a travel document.
Recommendation 3 The Home Office should grant discretionary leave to people who cannot be returned through no fault of their own.
The Home Office should:
1. Use its resources to assist in contacting the relevant embassy (or embassies) to request a travel document.
2. Provide funding for travel to embassies to facilitate the process of gathering documents. The process of applying for such funding should be simple and information about the funding should be widely available.
Where appeal rights exhausted individuals cannot, after a period of 12 months, be re-documented, or there is a barrier to return that is beyond their control, and they are complying with the system, they should be given discretionary leave to remain with a right to work and access higher education in the UK.
Putting in place temporary status for this group will prevent destitution.
5.2 Red Cross The Red Cross should:
1. Use our relationships with government and parliamentarians to help solicit responses from embassies when people are failing to receive attention.
2. Independently and in partnership with other organisations operating in the sector, look to develop an operational response that supports service users during embassy appointments for the purposes of gathering evidence of their visit and to advocate on their behalf, when appropriate.
3. Review our current policy of providing 12 weeks of destitution support and take appropriate action to ensure the support we offer is sufficient to deal with the long-term destitution faced by this group.
4. Provide training for and raise awareness among our staff and volunteers on the issue of statelessness, including training on how to apply for exceptional case funding for Stateless applications.
5. Routinely capture data on this group to support wider efforts to understand how many refused asylum seekers there are who cannot be returned.