GBP1m to assess health needs of refugees and asylum seekers
The day before the release of an Audit Commission report, widely expected to expose shortcomings in the current asylum dispersal system, a GBP1m project was launched in London to raise awareness of the health and welfare needs of refugees and asylum-seekers.
Called Breathing Space: Supporting Refugees Rebuild Their Lives, it is a joint project between the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture and the Refugee Council funded by GBP937,000 from the Camelot Foundation.
The three organisations spent 18 months preparing the groundwork for the project and have identified the lack of suitable housing and support services in dispersal areas as the key issue facing asylum seekers. The Audit Commission is expected to draw a similar conclusion and call on Government to do more for refugees.
The Breathing Space will advocate for accessible and culturally sensitive services and act as a focal point of information, training, advice and the development of best practice in London and regional cluster areas.
At the launch in Chatham House, London, a group of experts from both statutory and non-governmental health, welfare and human rights agencies gathered to discuss the issue of refugee well-being.
Their concerns are likely to be echoed in the Audit Commission report, specifically the growing gap between specialist services which should be provided for asylum-seekers fleeing persecution, torture and organised violence, and those services which are actually in place.
Labour MP Robin Corbett, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "We as a country must accept our obligations go beyond the 1951 [Geneva] Convention. We can do a lot more," he said.
Barbara Roche, Minister of State and responsible for immigration and asylum, has wished the Breathing Space project every success, saying through a spokeswoman: "She fully recognises the need that has been identified to inform mainstream services of the particular needs of refugees and asylum seekers".