From StatusNow signatory Jesuit Refugee Service: ‘My life is frozen’ – life in limbo for people seeking asylum
The impact of having their lives put on hold is devastating for refugee friends
This week the Independent published a special report looking at the lives of people seeking asylum, who are forced to live in limbo. As they spend years waiting on a decision to be made on their asylum claim, they live in great uncertainty, banned from working, and at risk of exploitation and abuse. These stories echo the harrowing experiences of the friends of JRS who are battling this hostile system, which is founded on suspicion. As they desperately seek to be recognised as refugees, they struggle to survive.
Data shows over 1,200 people seeking asylum currently in the system, have waited more than five years, with 399 more than a decade.
The Home Office previously had a six-month service standard on asylum decisions, but in 2019 it announced it was “moving away” from this to “concentrate on cases with acute vulnerability”. Its website still states that claims will “usually be decided within six months”.
In reality, waiting times on asylum claims hit a record high last year, with 46,800 people waiting more than six months for an initial decision on their claim at the end of 2020
Among the refugee friends supported by JRS, many have waited years appealing initial refusals for asylum. Some await the decision of a fresh claim, submitted with the help of JRS caseworkers and the Legal Project. Many of those supported by JRS are victims of trafficking and modern slavery, and have experienced trauma during their journeys to safety, the scars of which haunt them today. When they claim asylum in the UK it’s a disorientating and intimidating experience, as they are expected to adhere to a complex and highly beaurocratic process. Nobody knows how long it will take for an answer, or if they will be detained and removed back to the terrifying situation they have escaped.
In the meantime, they find themselves isolated and alone, unable to support themselves financially, unable to find safe accommodation, and relying entirely on the generosity of friends, acquaintances or charities.