ERI Oral Statement – UPR of United Kingdom

HRC 36th session

Item 6 – UPR Outcome of the United Kingdom

Edmund Rice International Statement

Mr President,

In the United Kingdom an increasing number of people access local food banks on a regular basis.  40% of low income households report being faced with the ‘heat or eat’ dilemma, while 20% of parents regularly say that they go without food to ensure that their children have enough to eat. The United Kingdom government is clearly failing meet its human rights obligations to support the right to food of its citizens and is not implementing policies to eliminate food poverty and food insecurity.

Housing is a basic human right as well as a social need. Current evidence is that the UK Government is failing to address effectively and strategically, the needs of homeless people in Northern Ireland. Homelessness in Northern Ireland has remained at historically high levels since 2005/06, is characterised by high rents and an inadequate housing supply and compounded by issues around addiction and mental health.

Due to housing unaffordability the average time spent in a hostel has risen from 3-4 months to 13 months which increases negative health outcomes, institutionalisation and lessens the chances of successful community reintegration. Funding for services in 2017/2018 has been cut this year by 5% which, on top of no inflationary uplift since 2008, has already resulted in the loss of support services users, and will next year lead to the closure of vital services.

A surge in homelessness in Northern Ireland is expected in September 2017 resulting from changes to the benefits system under the Welfare Reform Act. A similar reform in England has resulted in a 90% increase in rough sleeping in London and seen around a 38% increase in homelessness.

With the exception of the small-scale and selective Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme, the UK Government has no strategy or system for refugee support and integration. Traumatised and vulnerable people, often barely able to speak English, are left to cope unaided with the bureaucratic complexities of the benefits and housing systems.  Evicted from asylum accommodation 28 days after the granting of protection, refugees face an initial  period of complete destitution  until unemployment benefits are accessed  and an indefinite period of homelessness.

Furthermore, rejected asylum-seekers are denied all statutory support following eviction from asylum accommodation. Cashless, prohibited from working, unwilling or unable to return or unreturnable they  are denied basic human rights of food, shelter, and medical care,  and consigned to a limbo of street destitution  which  drives many  into illegal  or exploitative survival strategies.

Absence of state concern for basic human welfare forces dependence on the accidental  and inadequate spread   of voluntary sector activity, with failed asylum-seekers  are subjected to a form of extreme human marginalisation contrary to the letter and spirit of  UN human rights conventions.

Thank You