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Below you will find detailed research reports from various organisations about asylum seekers living in destitution in the UK. If you have any reports that you would recommend for this page, please leave a comment on the “blog” tab of this website.

Coping with Destitution Survival and livelihood strategies of refused asylum seekers living in the UK
Oxfam, February 2011

Coping with Destitution uncovers how the hundreds of thousands of refused asylum seekers currently living in the UK, with no access to legitimate means of securing a livelihood, survive on a day-to-day and longer-term basis. The strategies adopted by destitute asylum seekers have been analysed within a sustainable livelihoods framework, to ensure a systematic understanding of the different types of resources to which asylum seekers do – and do not – have access, and the impact this has on their lives. This approach also helped to identify changes to government policy that could help prevent destitution among refused asylum seekers. Fundamentally, the need to remain hidden and to avoid any risk of being deported affects every decision made by destitute asylum seekers, and in turn the coping strategies which they adopt. The survival strategies adopted by destitute asylum seekers are a consequence of asylum policy in the UK. That hundreds of thousands of people would rather live in poverty and in constant fear of deportation – reliant on friends, transactional relationships, commercial sex work or low-paid illegal work – rather than return to their country of origin, suggests the failure of government policy. It is not acceptable for asylum seekers to continue to live in destitution, and the government has a responsibility to ensure that the human rights of asylum seekers are upheld. The humiliating and degrading strategies adopted by destitute asylum seekers to survive and avoid deportation reflects the need for changes to government and civil-society policy and practice. All aspects of the asylum system – including the flawed asylum-determination process that often leads to wrongful denial of asylum, and policies that deny access to resources (such as the right to work and access to welfare support) – must be urgently reviewed to ensure that all asylum seekers are able to secure a sustainable and dignified livelihood.


“Not gone, but forgotten”.
Red Cross, June 2010

Not gone, but forgotten explores the Red Cross’ work supporting thousands of destitute asylum seekers and refugees throughout the UK, and the daily challenges they face just to survive.

In particular, it explores the experiences of refused asylum seekers who have reached the end of the appeal process and suggests some policy solutions to help improve their humanitarian situation. The report’s findings show that, under current policy, thousands of refused asylum seekers are denied employment, made homeless, refused healthcare and rely on handouts to survive.

Destitution Trap
Refugee Action, 2006

The government’s policy on refused asylum seekers does not work and is forcing thousands into abject poverty and mental suffering, says Refugee Action’s new report on Destitution.

Refugee Action’s The Destitution Trap, based on research in nine UK cities, reveals the suffering caused by an inhumane and ineffective government policy that cuts off support for refused asylum seekers.

“Underground Lives: an investigation into the living conditions & survival strategies of destitute asylum seekers in the UK
Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS), March 2009

The Leeds based organisation Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS), which wrote Underground Lives: an investigation into the living conditions & survival strategies of destitute asylum seekers in the UK, found and interviewed fifty-six people from twenty different countries, who are living in the UK on ‘less than a dollar a day – the yardstick that defines acute and unacceptable poverty across the globe’.

Among the report’s findings are the following:

  • the overwhelming majority of the interviewees came from wealthy and/ or professional backgrounds in their home countries;
  • their fears of return appear well-founded, as over two-thirds of those interviewed had experienced torture in their home countries, and over half had been imprisoned;
  • the average period of time living destitute among those interviewed was two years and five months; one interviewee has lived destitute for seven years;
  • almost three-quarters are sleeping outside or have done so. Over a third of these have been physically attacked by English people and over a third of women sleeping out have been sexually attacked, including rape. All are terrified of the police;
  • most of them are surviving on less than £5 per week.

“Still destitute”
Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, 2009

Concerned by the continuing problem of the destitution among refused asylum seekers, the Joseph
Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) commissioned a third survey of destitution in Leeds. It was first
undertaken in 2006 as part of research to inform the JRCT Inquiry into Destitution Among Refused
Asylum Seekers, and was repeated in 2008.
The survey again shows high levels of destitution and, in particular, that many people have been left in this dire situation for prolonged periods. The survey recorded each visit of destitute clients during a four week period in April-May 2009 to four of the five supporting agencies that took part in the
previous two surveys.

Research summary


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