A young doctor from Glasgow reports: in the UK refugees are left to rot

Teresa May Donald Tusk Brussels 2017

From left to right: Ms Theresa MAY, UK Prime Minister; Mr Donald TUSK, President of the European Council. Shoot location: Bruxelles – BELGIUM. Shoot date: 04/12/2017. Copyright: European Union.

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Isla Kempe, a 22 year old medical student studying in Glasgow, UK. Ms Kempe is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). The opinion expressed in this piece belongs to the writer and does not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

For the past two and a half years I have been a volunteer at a night shelter for homeless refugees in the United Kingdom. Under current UK law refugees who have their asylum application revoked do not receive any support from the government.

This leaves many of them destitute. While currently women and children are (mostly) exempt from this, many refugees in the UK find themselves in limbo awaiting appeal with no form of support. Daily life at the night shelter is hard with people having to be out on the street by 8am and not allowed back until 8pm.

Some of the men do cash in hand work, which is illegal but they have no choice. Many of the others go to the library which opens at 9am. In the winter this means that they must spend an hour on the street in the rain or snow waiting around. Once they get into the library they can access computers or books but there is no food for them there.

There are several asylum seeker and refugee support groups scattered across the city but how do you get to one if you can’t afford a bus? The same is to be said for the cities soup kitchens. The library closes at 6pm, the men must then wander around the city for a further two hours until they can get into the shelter.

Often dinner is not ready until 9pm. Many of the men will not have eaten since the morning. By 11.30 everyone is supposed to be in bed. However, sleeping accommodation is shared and the noise means a sleepless night for many. At 7 0’clock everyone is woken up again to repeat the cycle.

When I first started volunteering at the shelter, what struck me about the lives of the men was how the government sought to dehumanise them. These men have very little, they do not even have the right to work. Because of this many of the men spend lots of time sitting around.

The sheer boredom of the days where all you have to do is to be worried about how your case is going, is enough to severely wear down even the strongest of people’s emotional resilience. This combined with the stress of potential deportation and the lack of sleep leads to an incredibly damaging environment.

Many refugees whose case is rejected first time in the UK go on to win on their second or third appeal. Yet they live for years with their lives in limbo, they may have left their country of origin but still they cannot start their new life.  Many of the people I know thought they came to the UK for a better life, many of them would love to be able to go back, to live in a safe country but for many of them that is not possible.

Too often I see indifference to the lives of refugees where I should see compassion.

About the author

I’m a 22 year old medical student studying in Glasgow and I’ve always been interested in refugee rights as my school had many asylum seekers and refugees. For the past few years I’ve been involved in the Glasgow Night shelter which provides shelter to homeless refugees, asylum seekers and other non-EU nationals. This inspired me to campaign more on human rights with a focus on refugee rights.

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Comments

  1. Angus McKay, Glasgow says:

    “A young doctor from Glasgow reports: in the UK refugees are left to rot”

    The lie is in the heading … “refugees” … they are neither refugees nor asylum seekers, they are no longer seeking asylum. Their claims for asylum have been denied and they should have left the UK. They should have been forcibly deported, not being illegally harboured in a hostel.

    They aren’t part of the asylum process – they are failed asylum seekers who choose to make themselves destitute rather than accept the legal decision to return to their own countries. They should be removed by whatever means necessary rather than our Home Office asking them nicely to please prepare yourselves to return to your own countries. Those assisting and harbouring the illegals should be charged as law-breakers, that’s what they are. Law-breakers receiving money and being funded to break the law.

    Does any asylum seeker on being informed their asylum case has no merit ever say: ‘Thank you for having me and looking after me in my time of need, for giving me a home, keeping me warm, feeding me, educating me and my family, thank you, I will go back to my own country” – I think not – I have never, ever, read or heard of such gratitude.

    Clearly Ms Isla Kempe does not know the difference between an asylum seeker, a refugee and an illegal immigrant. Clearly Ms Isla Kempe didn’t realise she was being used to hide and support illegal immigrants.

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