The mental health of migrants stuck in temporary housing has been highlighted by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. David Neal added to mounting criticism of the government’s slow handling of asylum claims, as the considerable backlog leaves vulnerable people, including children, in inadequate shelters.
Neal drew attention to both the monetary and human cost of leaving ‘tens of thousands’ of migrants ‘stuck in limbo,’ and the need to provide a sense of ‘hope’ or ‘certainty’ as to the status of their asylum claims. ‘It is in the interests of everyone in this country to give some certainty to asylum seekers, reduce the inexcusably high backlog of cases, get people out of contingency asylum accommodation and let them start to rebuild their lives.’
As pointed out by Right to Remain, asylum seekers can only apply for a right to work after 12 months of waiting for a decision, as long as the Home Office considers the delay to be of ‘no fault’ of their own. Virtually all of those granted permission will however have to choose from a ‘shortage occupation list,’ meaning that they can only work in fields with a shortage of workers.
The Lift the Ban Coalition, who call for an end to the employment prohibition on asylum seekers, published a report investigating the impact of the work ban. Recently, they estimated ‘that the UK economy could gain £308.5m per year if the ban was lifted.’ Instead the slow rate at which asylum application approvals are being issued, 1.3 approvals per week according to Neal, means that money is being spent on keeping migrants in heavily criticised conditions for unnecessary amounts of time.
Issue has been taken with the costly nature of current immigration measures, especially given the concerning effect on the physical and mental wellbeing of asylum seekers fleeing dangerous conditions. GPS tracking systems have involved expensive contracts being awarded to private companies, and the much challenged Rwanda scheme has incurred a cost of at least £140 million.
Neal calls on the government to address the ‘inexcusably high’ backlog of cases. His comments come at a time when the government is already under fire for their approach to immigration and asylum and when members of the United Nations Human Rights Council have said the UK should make sure ‘its treatment of asylum seekers comply with international laws’.