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The human cost of asylum


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originally uploaded by lotsofbigideas.
So the Cost-to-the- Tax-Payer-of-Asylum-Seekers story runs on and on...

Whatever the costs might or might not be, and whoever is responsible for meeting them, what noone has mentioned yet is that so many of the asylum-seekers I've known spend months or, more frequently, years sitting in miserable hostel rooms, waiting in angst and fear for their claims to be processed.

All that time, they're desperate to work. They're humiliated by the indignity of having nothing useful to do, the accusations of being 'spongers.' Many of them are highly skilled and experienced people who could be contributing enormously to the new society they find themselves in. Most are prepared to do any kind of work just to regain some independence, some semblance of control over their lives.

I've been thinking about one young Bosnian man I met about two years ago. He was putting up a heroic struggle against depression and loneliness by volunteering in his local A&E department in inner-city London. I realised that he'd been a talented surgeon before he was forced to flee his home and community. The London hospital was so short-staffed that it was happy to let him 'help out'. He told me that, as people got to know his background, he was often asked unofficially for a medical opinion. But, of course, the rules meant that he wasn't allowed to earn any kind of wage.

I don't know what happened to this particular man. He got 'dispersed' somewhere else and I never saw him again. I just remember his despair and frustration and what he wrote in his notebook and showed to me at the end of one particularly long day of waiting: 'I'd do anything to remember what it feels like to be a human being again.'

There are many, many people like this man, people who really don't want to take tax-payers' money. They just want a chance to get on with their lives in a safe place. So how can keeping them on benefits, whilst someone loses their paperwork or takes months to make a decision, make any kind of financial sense?
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