UK churches oppose law making asylum applicants destitute

 The Churches' Commission for Racial Justice (CCRJ) today expressed dismay at the government's withdrawal of support from asylum applicants who claim after arriving in the country. CCRJ described the measures under sections 55 and 57 of the new Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, as draconian and highly unlikely to stop people seeking asylum in Britain. From today, asylum applicants who do not immediately apply for asylum with immigration authorities at a port once they have arrived in the UK, will not be eligible to apply for support to the National Asylum Support Service (NASS). The Rt Revd Roger Sainsbury, Moderator of CCRJ, a commission of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, said: "We are very disappointed. This action by government will mean large numbers of people seeking asylum will be thrown into greater destitution and fear. There is evidence that churches across the country are very concerned about the implications of the new legislation, and we must by all means be prepared to support applicants." Secretary of CCRJ, the Revd Arlington Trotman said: "This measure will have a very serious impact on asylum applicants, and will inevitably lead to widespread homelessness, severe destitution and greater trauma for those who do not immediately apply for asylum at ports. It echoes measures introduced in the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996, when the government withdrew benefit entitlement from in-country asylum applicants. This which was contested by the opposition and successfully challenged in the courts.' "Since applicants will not be allowed to work, they will be without any form of income or support. Churches already providing support to homeless people and people seeking asylum are being encouraged to provide shelter and warmth, food and clothing to meet the immediate needs of brothers and sisters." The Refugee Council reports that "around 60 per cent of asylum seekers traditionally have filed their claims a few days after their arrival in this country. Often they do not know procedures, or they fear what might happen to them if they report to immigration officials at ports and airports." CCRJ Secretary, Arlington Trotman, who will join others protesting outside the Home Office today, said: 'We are told these measures will discourage people from claiming asylum in Britain, but people fleeing from persecution are never motivated by the system of support they will find in Britain. We call on the government to uphold its commitment to protect people under the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, and provide a safe haven to those risking their lives." Churches Together in Britain and Ireland co-ordinates the work of its 31 member churches and liaises with ecumenical bodies in Britain and Ireland as well as ecumenical organizations at European and world levels. The CCRJ is a Commission of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

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