Asylum seekers should get benefits, says leading Tory think-tank

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Asylum seekers refused permission to live in the UK should continue to receive benefits to prevent them turning to crime, a report by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith's think-tank said today.

The Government's 'nasty' policy of refusing to support failed asylum seekers in an effort to force them to return home has failed, Mr Duncan Smith said.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report recommended sweeping changes to encourage failed asylum seekers to voluntarily go back to their country of origin.

The think tank found at least 26,000 failed asylum seekers in the UK are surviving on Red Cross food parcels.

There is a backlog of 280,000 failed applications which could take 20 years to clear, the CSJ warned.

The report said the existing system forces many refused applicants to face destitution or disappear off the authorities' radar and drift into illegal employment, prostitution or crime.

It said: 'Making refused asylum seekers homeless and penniless is hugely counterproductive.

'It is much more difficult to work with them to encourage voluntary return or to ensure timely removal.'

The UK lags far behind countries such as Sweden or Canada in persuading failed asylum seekers to leave voluntarily, the report found. A forced removal costs around £11,000, 10-times as much as a voluntary return.

Mr Duncan Smith said: 'The policy of making asylum seekers destitute is mean and nasty and has not worked.'

In a preface to the report, he said: 'The evidence gathered for this report shows that the welcome offered today falls far short of our traditional standards.

'It also appears that a British government is using forced destitution as a means of encouraging people to leave voluntarily.

'It is a failed policy. UK policy is still driven by the thesis, clearly falsified, that we can encourage people to leave by being nasty.

'The result is that we rely heavily on forcible return, which is both very costly and time-consuming, and engages only a small proportion of those whose claims are refused.

'This system gives refused asylum seekers good reason to abscond and little reason to engage with officialdom.'

The report recommends speeding up the asylum system so that those rejected are returned home within six months, either forcibly or voluntarily, compared with the existing process which takes an average of 13 months.

Unsuccessful applicants should continue to receive housing and financial support for up to six months pending their removal.

Asylum seekers who are refused permission to remain but are unable to be returned should be given a temporary licence to enable them to work and to access health care.

The report proposes setting up a new independent body to rule on asylum claims made up of a panel of magistrates, with charities and voluntary groups contracted to provide support for immigrants until they are returned home or integrated into society if allowed to remain in the UK.  continues here

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