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Page last updated at 12:50 GMT, Sunday, 27 June 2010 13:50 UK

Charity warns asylum seekers 'sleep rough' in Leicester

By Allister Craddock
Politics show, BBC East Midlands

Elizabeth Asafu-Adsei

Elizabeth from Rwanda was sleeping rough for 12 years

A new report by Refugee Action in Leicester says more and more asylum seekers are having to sleep rough.

It estimates 225 asylum seekers in the city are destitute, 48 of them for more than five years.

Elizabeth Asafu-Adsei from Rwanda has just been granted refugee status after 12 years sleeping rough.

She tells the Politics Show: "Please treat us like human beings."

She says she could never bring herself to beg for money, even when she was at her lowest ebb.

Closing centres

This week the charity, Refugee and Migrant Justice, was forced to close its regional office in Nottingham after going into administration nationally.

It has blamed delays in Government funding, a charge denied by the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke.

He says: "The charity did not make efficiency savings that other providers have made."

He points out that a fixed fee system was introduced by the Labour Government for organisations providing legal advice on asylum and immigration.

And he claims the vast majority of providers have successfully made the transition involved.

Deterioration in health

But the charity says it will go to court on behalf of its clients to try to force the Government to stump up about £1 million to cover the costs of transferring legal cases to other lawyers.

In Leicester, Refugee Action insists destitution should not be used as a lever to "encourage" refused asylum seekers to leave the country before they've had the chance to appeal.

It warns that an inevitable deterioration in the health of asylum seekers exposes them and others to risk.

"Being locked into destitution is a terrible waste of people's lives and potential.

"We are in danger of creating a society where it becomes an acceptable way of life."

Living off vouchers

Many asylum seekers whose applications have been turned down are living on £10 a week in vouchers.

Others, who are awaiting decisions on their status, get up to £35 a week.

The Red Cross believes it is time to give them the right to work, a freedom currently denied them. At least, it says, it would give them the chance to regain some of their dignity.

Refugee Action say their latest figures indicate that there are 2,100 asylum seekers in Nottingham, Leicester and Derby.

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