The government's treatment of failed asylum seekers goes against "human decency" and needs to be reformed, a report published today has argued.
Commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust Moving On: from destitution to contribution claims the government's policy towards refused asylum seekers is "failing" and leaves people in "appalling and inhumane" conditions.
The Home Office has adopted a "culture of denial" the report claimed, where officials effectively leave people in limbo by refusing applications that will inevitably lead to an appeal. The government must accept that not all failed asylum seekers can return home, the authors add.
More radically it proposes decisions should be made by an independent body, warning politicians should stop using asylum as a "political football".
Moving On: from destitution to contribution sets out to explore how the asylum process can be improved. It found the current policy of denying asylum seekers benefits while refusing their right to work has a negative impact on the economy and forces people to work illegally or rely on charity.
Instead it suggests people seeking asylum could be given a revocable licence to work while their claim is processed.
Following research into destitution in Leeds, the report recommends three reforms: the application process should encourage people to work within the system; asylum seekers should be given the chance to contribute to their communities; and people should be provided with the "basic necessities of life".
Home Office minister Joan Ryan argued the current system is "fair" and supports applicants from arrival to the outcome of their application.
Ms Ryan refused to endorse the report's proposals. "It is not right to ask the UK taxpayer to fund - potentially indefinitely - those who choose to remain when it is open to them to return to a home country that has been found safe for them to live in," she said.
A policy of allowing applicants to work would also be open to abuse, Ms Ryan, and "send out the wrong message to those who may try to come here without genuine cause".
Nevertheless, the Refugee Council said it hoped the government would act on the report and reform its "failed" policy towards refused asylum seekers.
Anna Reisenberger, acting chief executive of the Refugee Council said: "As the independent commissioners make clear, the current policy of using destitution to enforce return might look tough but it isn't delivering results.
"For all sorts of reasons, which the government well understands, many refused asylum seekers can't return home - at least for the time being. Given that, the policy of denying refused asylum seekers all support and refusing them the right to work manages to be both immoral and pointless."