Page last updated at 12:05 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 13:05 UK

Plea for 'destitute' asylum group

Despairing man (generic)
The forum wants to see more legal help for asylum seekers

At least 135 asylum seekers in Leicester are "destitute", according to figures from a support group.

Leicester Refugee and Asylum Seekers Voluntary Sector Forum said its report showed refugees needed more legal help to make sure they were treated fairly.

But a UK Border Agency spokesman said all asylum seekers had access to legal advice and financial support.

The report said some applicants' requests for asylum were being turned down due to inadequate legal advice.


The forum called on the government to supply adequate legal representation at all stages of the asylum process.

"There is a lack of adequate legal support and representation for people seeking asylum in Leicester and across the UK," the report said.

A UK Border Service statement said: "We provide measures that ensure that individuals are not destitute and work to ensure that all are treated with respect and humanity."

He said temporary and limited support was available to failed asylum seekers and added that all asylum applicants were given legal advice and an interpreter if necessary.

Amanda Soraghan, chairwoman of the refugee forum, said the survey found 135 refugees in Leicester were destitute and of those 21% were "sofa-surfing".

She said many of the Leicester asylum seekers were unable to find a lawyer who specialised in immigration - but the government disagreed.

"A 'case owner' has regular face-to-face contact with the applicant, ensuring that the individual needs of that person can be considered and dealt with accordingly," the UK Border Service spokesman said.

The survey indicated 67% of the asylum seekers who responded had become destitute as a result of rejected asylum applications.

The report was based on a survey of asylum seekers accessing support between February and March 2008.

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