MORE than 160 people from 29 UK cities will gather in Bristol on Friday 6 March to call for an end to government induced destitution among asylum-seekers at the first joint national conference between local authorities, refugee organisations and the voluntary sector.
Bristol Mayor, George Ferguson is the key-note opening speaker for the day-long event. He will be joined by Sarah Teather MP, Chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees, local MPs Kerry McCarthy and Stephen Williams, and sanctuary seekers who have experienced destitution.
The event takes place from 10:30am to 4:00pm at the prestigious At-Bristol venue on the Harbourside and will end with the planting of a Tree of Sanctuary on College Green, in the heart of the City Centre between City Hall and Bristol Cathedral from 4:10 to 4:30pm. Candles will be lighted to remember those who have perished through destitution.
Fr. Richard McKay, Chair of Bristol City of Sanctuary movement explains that the conference will call on the UK government “to stop using destitution as a means of forcing refused asylum seekers out of the country.”
“The majority of refused asylum seekers are living a hand to mouth existence, reliant on charity as they are not allowed to work. Many suffer from depression and mental health problems due to their destitution and their fear of being returned to their country of origin. As vulnerable people living on the very margins, they are exposed to exploitation and abuse,” Said Fr. Richard McKay, Chair, Bristol City of Sanctuary.
“The denial of any means of support for refused asylum seekers as a matter of government policy is morally reprehensible. It’s time to end this scandal,” he said.
The conference will also see a signing and endorsement of a statement to end asylum destitution. Mr Ferguson will lead the signing of the statement, which Bristol City Council has approved.
Still Human, Still Here , the campaign to end destitution among refused asylum seekers says destitution among refused asylum seekers is widespread and is having a devastating impact on already vulnerable individuals. Most refused asylum seekers in the rest of the UK live in extreme poverty and are not able to provide for themselves as they are not permitted to work and are denied support. Many of them cannot return to their country of origin because it may be unsafe for them to do so, they are unfit to travel due to ill health or their country of origin will not cooperate with their readmission.
Effectively made destitute by the government, they rely on handouts from friends or members of the community in which they have integrated, or they are forced into sleeping rough, making them vulnerable and open to sexual exploitation and abuse.
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