The average length of time someone with insecure immigration status spends destitute in Greater Manchester is four years, according to statistics compiled by the Migrant Destitution Fund GM.
The fund gave it’s first grant in April 2020, and, of 249 people who applied to the fund between then and January 2021 and provided personal information, the average person had been destitute for four years and three months, while the longest period that a person had experienced destitution for was 26 years.
Only 20 applicants had spent less than one year living in destitution.
The fund, which was set up to try to alleviate destitution among people with insecure immigration status in Greater Manchester who have no recourse to public funds, provides grants of up to £80.
Recipients of the fund include people whose asylum claims have been refused, individuals who came to the UK on a spousal visa whose relationships have ended, and migrants who have lost their jobs owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and are prevented from accessing state benefits owing to their immigration status.
A total of 606 grants were given to 249 individuals between the period of April 2020 and January 2021 for which analysis has been completed, totalling £47,405.
Robbie Cowbury, from the Migrant Destitution Fund, said: “We’ve known for a long time now that there are hundreds, potentially thousands, of people in Greater Manchester who are experiencing destitution and who are desperately in need of financial support.
“That’s why we set up the fund. What we didn’t know, but what the data shows from our applications process, is that people are spending on average more than four years destitute.
“That means that they have no secure home and are often either sofa surfing, which can sometimes lead to more vulnerability and exploitation, sleeping rough on the streets, or in precarious accommodation for the duration of the pandemic.
“One person accessing the fund had spent 26 years destitute. What kind of life is that for a person and what does that say about our society?
“We are supporting people who have experienced long delays as a result of the asylum process and have no other means of support, people denied the right to work, with additional challenges such as physical and mental health issues, and people with children to support.
“Even we were shocked by what the data revealed to us.”
Mariatu, who is currently awaiting a decision on her asylum claim having been destitute multiple times since she first came to the UK 18 years ago, said: “We have to fight for and support each other as people, women, sisters who have experienced this thing and that’s what we’re doing with this fund.”
Ibrahim, a disability and LGBT rights activist in his home country, was granted refugee status last year.
He said: “I am lucky to have got status, but I know many people who are stuck in hopeless situations.
“Asylum seekers flee their country because of persecution and hope to find refuge, but here they aren’t allowed to work or contribute to the UK. People can so easily find themselves destitute.”
Key findings from the data:
- The average length of time that a person with insecure immigration status has spent destitute in Greater Manchester is 4.3 years
- 16% of applicants mentioned having children to support
- The most common reasons for needing to access the fund were for the provision of transport (21.15%), food (19.23%), and contributions toward their host’s household expenses (15.38%)
- More than half of the applicants reported staying with acquaintances (‘sofa surfing’), 10% were in council accommodation (likely to be ‘A Bed Every Night’ provision), and 4% were sleeping rough on the streets
The Migrant Destitution Fund is a lifeline for people who have nowhere else to turn. It is used by around 18 referring partners to support some of Greater Manchester’s most vulnerable individuals.
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