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Coventry charities struggling under weight of destitute
Both are appealing for donations of money and non-perishable food to meet the overwhelming increase in demand being placed on their services.
Chief Executive of Coventry Refugee Centre, Bhopinder Basi, is concerned about the scale of the problem and says that it is akin to disaster hit parts of the third world;
“When it comes to giving food to the hungry we expect to see the Red Cross flag flying in a war zone or some place where a catastrophe has happened. We don’t expect these NGOs to tell us there’s a humanitarian crisis unfolding on our doorstep.”
The Coventry Telegraph report blames two factors for the increasing levels of destitution in Coventry; a broken asylum system and an overly complex, overly bureaucratic benefits system that results in delays in payments being made.
Gavin Kibble of the Coventry Foodbank sees the impact of the benefits system everyday on the people who access the emergency food parcels that the food bank hands out;
“With benefits, the hoops you have to jump through… the documentation… it’s extraordinary. The people who are paying benefits don’t realise the implications of delaying a benefit payment. I understand there are constraints but at the end of every benefit payment there is a human being who could be absolutely dependent on that payment. It could be the difference between them keeping their home and feeding themselves or not. It seems absolutely crass to me that we are living in a society that allows this to happen.”
The problems with the asylum system are not unique to Coventry. Margaret Finch is a director at TRP Solicitors, a law firm that represents asylum seekers across the West Midlands and beyond;
“We see time and again when people are refused asylum they are evicted and have their benefits stopped. People become destitute and vulnerable very quickly in those circumstances. But often a refusal of asylum isn’t followed by attempts to remove someone from the UK. The asylum seeker is then left in limbo, fearful of going home but unable to work or access benefits here. There’s a mental health pandemic amongst the asylum seeking community. What’s worse is the quality of decision making by the UK Border Agency. More often than not we represent destitute people who should never have been refused asylum in the first place, they should never have been put in this situation.”
The Coventry Refugee Centre estimates that there are 1,500 destitute asylum seekers in Coventry at the moment, each in need of support. Even a £5 donation to the centre makes a difference because it is enough to provide 1 food parcel with enough for 5 meals, or Toiletries and necessities for one person to last a month, or Sanitary towels to last a month.
Coventry Foodbank needs donations of non-perishable food. They can be taken to Queen’s Road Baptist Church between 9am and 12 noon on Mondays and Thursdays, or to the Hope Centre on the corner of Vauxhall Street and Paynes Lane between noon and 2pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.