UK refugee policies harm community relations, say Jesuits

 Government policies are contributing to a very negative image of asylum seekers, so that the public often view them as criminals or undesirables, according to the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). Responding to a Home Office Consultation on the Integration of Refugees, JRS-UK says asylum seekers and refugees should be treated with "dignity and respect", and insists that "integration, if it is to be done well, must start while the individual is still an asylum seeker", in order to improve community relations. This has been severely hampered however since permission for asylum seekers to work while awaiting a Home Office decision was withdrawn, and JRS-UK appeals to the government to reinstate this permission: 'In our experience working helps asylum seekers to gain language skills, develop other skills, develop self-confidence, make friendships within the settled community and helps contribute towards a better understanding or an appreciation of asylum seekers and refugees by British people.' JRS-UK goes on to list a number of government policies, which, it says, contribute to a "very negative image" of refugees and asylum seekers: Withdrawing free secondary health care from asylum seekers who have received a final refusal or who cannot pursue an appeal due to inability to find a solicitor to take their cases forward, detention of asylum seekers both in removal centres and in the prison system, electronic monitoring of asylum seekers all contribute to a view in the general public's mind that asylum seekers and refugees are criminals, health tourists or generally not to be trusted. The withdrawal of free (non-urgent) health care from asylum seekers is the focus for JRS-UK's strongest criticism. The agency claims that: Any health problems they may have suffered may have worsened while they were technically "failed" asylum seekers, due to stress, not being able to access health care and being left destitute. This will have a huge impact on their ability to integrate fully into British society, as they may be left with ongoing health problems (physical and mental), which may delay or prevent them from getting employment, and which may hinder them from attending job centre or benefits agency interviews.' The full text of the JRS-UK response to the Home Office consultation can be found on their web site: Source: Jesuit Communications Office

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