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«Refugees and asylum seekers A review from an equality and human rights perspective Peter Aspinall and Charles Watters University of Kent Refugees and ...»

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Equality and Human Rights Commission

Research report 52

Refugees and asylum seekers

A review from an equality and

human rights perspective

Peter Aspinall and Charles Watters

University of Kent

Refugees and asylum seekers

A review from an equality and human rights perspective

Peter Aspinall and Charles Watters

University of Kent

© Equality and Human Rights Commission 2010

First published Spring 2010

ISBN 9 781 84206 264 7


The Equality and Human Rights Commission Research Report Series publishes research carried out for the Commission by commissioned researchers.

The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commission. The Commission is publishing the report as a contribution to discussion and debate.

Please contact the Research team for further information about other Commission

research reports, or visit our website:

Research Team Equality and Human Rights Commission Arndale House The Arndale Centre Manchester M4 3AQ Email: research@equalityhumanrights.com Telephone: 0161 829 8500 Website: www.equalityhumanrights.com

You can download a copy of this report as a PDF from our website:

www.equalityhumanrights.com If you require this publication in an alternative format, please contact the

Communications Team to discuss your needs at:

communications@equalityhumanrights.com Contents Tables and figures iii Acknowledgements iv Executive summary v

1. Introduction 1

2. Population and policy 2

2.1 How the ‘population’ is defined for the study 2

2.2 The refugee and asylum seeker population 2

2.3 The broad policy context 8

2.4 Summary 17

3. Health status and health and social care 19

3.1 Access to and use of care services 19

3.2 Health needs of asylum seekers and refugees 26

3.3 Summary 35

4. Education, training, and the labour market 38

4.1 Education, children and young people 38

4.2 Access to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses 44

4.3 Employment, skills and qualifications 47

4.4 Summary 55

–  –  –

We are grateful to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (the Commission) for funding this study. We would also like to thank Liz Speed and Jenny Birchall for all their efforts in editing the report and preparing the manuscript for publication.

David Darton and Robin Lynn also made an important contribution to this study as members of the Commission steering group.

We also convey thanks to all those who supplied information during the course of this study, including officials in the Scottish and Welsh Assembly governments and representatives from refugee organisations.

–  –  –

Executive summary This report examines the situation of asylum seekers and refugees from an equality and human rights perspective. Refugees and asylum seekers are a diverse group, with one thing in common: they are subject to forced migration, and are fleeing from persecution in their countries of origin. They have a range of intersectional identities and can experience discrimination on the grounds of any of the seven equality areas, or because of socio-economic factors. It is also important to remember that asylum seekers and refugees experience a range of distinct problems and inequalities due to their immigration status.

The report seeks to place the evidence within its legislative context but without going into the detail of case law. As there is little official data available on the group and few large-scale quantitative studies, the report draws strongly on qualitative and more localised studies to examine the situation with regard to a number of issues including, among others, health, education and employment.

Population and policy The focus is on two distinct groups: asylum seekers and refugees.

• The term ‘asylum seeker’ is usually reserved for those who have applied for asylum and are awaiting a decision on their applications and those whose applications have been refused.

• The term ‘refugee’ is usually adopted for those who, having applied for asylum, have been given recognised refugee status. In addition, it also usually encompasses those who have received ‘exceptional leave to remain’ or ‘indefinite leave to remain’ (now included in the term ‘humanitarian protection’).

The data collection systems for these groups provide only a very partial picture.

Official statistics give us data on the flows of asylum seekers entering the country who declare themselves principal applicants, but only limited data on the dependants who accompany them. Data allows us to count the number of principal applicants who were recognised as refugees, not recognised as refugees but given leave to remain, and those refused. We do not have information on the number of refused asylum seekers in the country at any one time, or on the number of those who entered the country as principal applicants for asylum and their dependants who remain in the country.

Over the past two decades the issue of migration has been a top public concern, not only in the UK but across Europe and in all industrialised countries. It is important to contextualise measures taken towards asylum seekers and refugees within the v


broader range of measures relating to migrants and visitors to the UK. This is because government itself has increasingly sought to integrate the measures taken towards asylum seekers and refugees within broader migration policy. In addition, there is considerable merging of the categories of refugee, asylum seeker and migrant in the public imagination and in press coverage.

The plethora of new laws, policies and operational guidelines introduced in the UK in recent years suggests a continuing uncertainty as to how to address the issue of migration in general and asylum seekers and refugees in particular. The popular conflation of asylum seeking with associations of evasiveness and criminality and the consequent ‘culture of mistrust’ has done much to undermine the legitimate efforts of those who are genuinely seeking to escape from persecution.

Health status, health and social care Only limited data are collected on the use of secondary healthcare by asylum seekers and refugees, and there has been little evaluation of their use of different primary care service models. It is clear that uncertainty and lack of clarity among service providers about asylum seekers’ eligibility for secondary healthcare has resulted in concerns about the health of these groups, particularly during pregnancy.

Strong evidence does exist to show the difficulties asylum seekers face accessing GP treatment. The consequences of these difficulties can be increased reliance on accident and emergency services and the resulting increased costs and pressure on these.

There are specific concerns around vulnerable groups. For women asylum seekers and refugees there is evidence of poor antenatal care and pregnancy outcomes, and low uptake of preventative healthcare measures concerning breast and cervical cancer. There is little evidence of the commissioning of services for disabled asylum seekers and no clear guidance exists on local authority responsibilities towards asylum seekers with care needs. Mental health problems including post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety are prevalent among asylum seekers and refugees, and the provision of mental health services for survivors of torture and organised violence is widely regarded as inadequate.

The vulnerability and ill health of asylum-seeking and refugee children is an area of particular concern, as are the health needs of older refugees. There are also concerns around the provision of healthcare to asylum seekers in detention with communicable diseases and with HIV/AIDS.



Education, training and the labour market The right to education is enshrined in a wide range of international and national conventions and laws. In practice, asylum-seeking and refugee children’s right to education in the UK is hindered as a result of dispersal, residential instability, financial difficulties and inadequate support in schools. Evidence shows that these children can, with suitable measures, overcome the disadvantages they face at school, but initiatives to aid this are patchy and a key ongoing challenge is to identify and collate evidence of good practice and disseminate this. Access to higher education can be very difficult for asylum seekers due to the demand for overseas fees.

Refugees and asylum seekers face a range of barriers to learning, including problems accessing English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision and lack of childcare, information and advice, and college places. Problems of access are particularly felt by women, older refugees and asylum seekers, those who are carers and those with a disability. English language acquisition is vital in the process of integration and cuts in provision have considerable negative consequences for asylum seekers and refugees.

There are low levels of labour market participation among refugees, as well as poor terms and conditions of employment, despite the high proportion of refugees and asylum seekers with prior education, qualifications and work experience. There is evidence of a range of initiatives to help refugee professionals, but barriers to employment are still experienced, particularly around non recognition of qualifications gained outside the UK, lack of technical English language and the expense of registration with professional bodies.

Poverty, destitution and access to accommodation and financial support Asylum seekers are vulnerable to poverty and destitution (defined as not having adequate accommodation or support for themselves and their dependants for the next 14 days) as a result of a number of factors. These include: the circumstances in which they and their dependants arrive in the UK (often without money or accommodation), the complexity of the rules for entitlement to financial and other support for asylum seekers and those refused asylum, the occurrence of administrative and casework errors, and the fact that the vast majority of asylum seekers do not have permission to work. Evidence indicates that refused asylum seekers are the most disadvantaged group and evidence of destitution appears to run counter to Section 11 of Chapter 42 of the Human Rights Act 1988 and Council Directive 2003/9/EC.

–  –  –

Asylum seekers with care needs are particularly vulnerable to poverty and to falling through the gaps between Home Office and social services support. Other vulnerable groups include single women and those with children.

There are concerns about the specific requirements that asylum seekers must meet when lodging a claim in order to be eligible for support. The incompatibility of the Section 55 and 9 provisions with Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) remains a key concern, as do the conditions that asylum seekers must comply with in order to receive Section 4 support. Complex issues surround the provision of support for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and there are doubts as to whether the UK’s responsibilities under domestic legislation and international human rights principles are being fulfilled.

Legal and criminal justice system Asylum seekers experience an interface with legal and criminal justice systems as soon as they enter the UK. Their entry is subject to a wide range of checks instituted by legislation, including the collection of biometric information. Age assessment procedures have also begun to include x-ray and other medical measures. It is important that these measures are continually monitored in order to ensure that they do not restrict the human right to claim asylum or increase the risk of refoulement (that is, returning someone seeking refuge against their will to a place where he or she could be persecuted).

Recent changes in the law around illegal working have increased the penalties employers face and have been accompanied by increased Home Office enforcement. It will be important to monitor the effect these measures have on refugees and other foreign nationals who are allowed to work, and whether employers become wary of employing anyone they judge as posing a possible risk of prosecution.

There are relatively few findings on how asylum seekers and refugees engage with the criminal justice system as service users, although there is evidence of harassment and racism towards newly arrived groups. Little specific evidence has been collected on hate crime towards these groups.

–  –  –

persecution is significantly reduced. Similar concerns arise around the lack of guidance for dealing with claims made on the grounds of sexual orientation or trans status, and a lack of awareness within the system of the persecution that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans) people suffer in some countries.

Integration and cohesion Public perceptions about asylum tend to be negative and misinformed with widespread confusion about the difference between economic migrants, illegal immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and others. The term asylum carries many negative connotations, yet people do believe in the importance of offering ‘sanctuary’ to those who need it. Attitudes towards asylum seekers and refugees are influenced by a range of factors including political and media discourses, educational background, individual demographic characteristics, contact with ethnic minority groups, and income and labour market position.

There are some geographical areas where the perceived extent of cohesion is likely to be lower and where targeted action is needed. These include less affluent rural areas, those experiencing migration for the first time and less affluent urban areas where there may be competition for jobs.

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