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Thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers 'reliant on charities for basic needs'

Thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers are being left destitute in Britain, a leading charity has warned.

The British Red Cross said it came to the aid of 14,909 people, including dependants, without adequate access to food, housing or healthcare last year.

This was an increase of nearly 10% on the 13,660 seen in 2015.

Men, women and children in need of help came from countries including Sudan, Syria and Eritrea and were aged from one to 92.

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: "These figures point to a steady increase in the number of people who flee war and violence only to risk being left destitute and reliant on charities for basic necessities, including the ability to feed and clothe their children."

The charity said that at least a fifth (21%) of those seen had refugee status, while 46% were asylum-seekers awaiting a decision on their initial application to remain in the UK.

Figures also show an increase in the level of support provided to each person, with the number of " actions" taken by the charity up 17.4% in 2016 from 56,158 to 65,979.

Destitute refugees and asylum seekers are found across the UK, with the Red Cross seeing people most frequently in Leicester, London and Cardiff.

Mr Adamson said: " No one should be left homeless after fleeing the devastating conflict in Syria or persecution in Eritrea.

"Instead of creating a more hostile system which puts even more people at risk of living hand to mouth, we want to work with the Government to address this largely hidden and silent crisis."

The Home Office said it supports asylum-seekers who would otherwise be destitute.

A spokesman for the department added: " The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection, but those who are refused asylum and have exhausted their appeal rights are expected to leave the UK."

The Red Cross defines an individual as destitute if they do not eat sufficiently, have no fixed home, cannot afford essential items such as clothes and toiletries, and/or are experiencing worsening health.

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