Bolton and Rochdale both house amongst the highest proportion of asylum seekers in the country. In the midst of the current migration influx to the UK, Manchester charities are busier than ever.
Hulme-based Asylum Support Housing Advice (ASHA), has reported that their workload has doubled since government cuts to wider humanitarian organisations.
Under current legislation, asylum seekers receive accommodation and around £35 pppw (asylum support) until they are either granted or refused refugee status, by the Home Office.
The length of time asylum support is provided varies depending on the individual’s circumstances, but once terminated, can leave asylum seekers in the dark. Many who lose out are forced to leave their accommodation; facing months of homelessness as they cannot work or claim benefits.
ASHA’s aim is to alleviate destitution for asylum seekers, taking action and providing free legal advice for immigrants in need of official support. The charity sees around 70 people a week, running drop-in sessions and appointments, with the intention of helping refused people appeal for asylum eligibility.
Maria Houlihan has been manager of ASHA since last June, and enlightened TNT as to the face-to-face work the charity does:
“It’s a very difficult and long winded process to get asylum support, and the Home Office doesn’t make it particularly easy.
“We see someone once for a drop-in, book them in for an appointment, and then it’s done within a week”.
Operational capacity of larger agencies such as Refugee Action and Asylum Support has dwindled since government cuts, making charities like ASHA vital for the wellbeing of Manchester’s migrants.
Maria alluded to the number of asylum seekers entering the UK, acknowledging that “Manchester is almost at capacity”. However, she suggested that the government should not let political motives obscure the reality of the level of support required:
“We should stop thinking of people as numbers and a financial burden, and realise that there is a duty to support.
“We’re a wealthy country that could do a lot more”.
TNT News James Skipper