As a nation, we should be ashamed of this story in so many ways.
Firstly, we should be ashamed that a family of three asylum seekers from abroad came to the UK, believing that they would be treated well.
Then we should be ashamed that this group became dependent on charity handouts – despite their successful claim for asylum – because of ‘significant problems’ transferring them from Home Office administration to mainstream welfare support. This meant they had to be on the streets before local authorities – in this case the Conservative flagship Westminster Council – could offer help.
It is bitterly shameful that the child of this family, living in destitution on British streets, was allowed to starve to death.
Even worse is that, after this happened, the government axed its funding for the Refugee Integration and Employment Service (RIES)- which paid transitional support for successful asylum seekers like this family. This means others will find themselves in an even worse situation, as soon as they arrive in the UK.
Most damning of all is the fact that this is a major news story across the world – but in the UK both the BBC and Sky News have ignored it, apart from a link on the BBC website to a report by Inside Housing.
Why is that?
Is it because our Coalition government doesn’t want us to know it is letting asylum-seekers starve?
Is it because, even in a country where anti-immigration and anti-asylum-seeker feeling has been stoked by the right-wing press, ministers know that letting them die will still upset the British sense of fair play that many of us still (perhaps surprisingly) have?
Is it because the government has no intention of changing its ways?
Westminster Council warned the government to fix the flaws in its support system for successful asylum seekers, by letter, in March 2011. Support for RIES was cut six months later. It seems clear that the government never paid serious attention to the council’s comments.
The Refugee Council has said stories like this are increasingly common, and Refugee Action says more and more asylum-seekers are being forced onto the streets.
And guess who is partly responsible for this, alongside the Home Office?
Yes, yet again it is the Department for Work and Pensions, which seems to have set itself the task of causing the most avoidable deaths ever, within a single Parliamentary term.
The International Criminal Court has already been asked to consider charges against Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, alongside his former cronies Chris Grayling and Maria Miller, both of whom have moved on to bigger Cabinet portfolios, where presumably they can cause even more havoc.
Perhaps this latest scandal could be added to the list.