Two charities have accused the Government of a deliberate policy of persecution against asylum seekers in the UK.

Both the Bradford-based City of Sanctuary Project and Positive Action For Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS) have said that a deliberate attempt is being made by agencies to starve and intimidate asylum seekers out of the UK.

The UK Border Agency denied the claims, saying the country’s asylum system was “humane and compassionate”. The charities’ comments follow the publication of a report commissioned by PAFRAS which alleges hundreds of thousands of failed asylum seekers are living in destitution.

John Burnett, of PAFRAS, said: “We are seeing huge increases in the number of people accessing our services here in West Yorkshire.

“Last year we had 6,000 visits to our Leeds office alone and we are starting more and more destitute people and related issues which we did not see previously.

“We are seeing children born malnourished because their mothers haven’t been able to eat properly in the first seven months of pregnancy and a much higher number of suicidal people.

“What we are hearing is many of these people were tortured in their own countries and now feel they are being tortured here.

“Many asylum seekers are living in poverty and the food we provide them is barely enough to keep them alive. We had one man who is a diabetic and one week he could not afford to come to get his food and collapsed into a diabetic coma.

“This really is a matter of life and death for these people. They are being crushed by the system and it is not accidental, the Government’s treatment of these people is inhumane. It is creating poverty and starvation by design.”

Will Sutcliffe, of the City of Sanctuary Project, said: “There are people here living on literally nothing a day and there is no support for them.

“The UK Borders Agency claims measures are there to ensure individuals are not left without basic essentials – but we know there are hundreds of thousands who are having to do just that.

“It amounts to a deliberate policy of starving people out of this country.”

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: “There is no need for asylum seekers to be destitute.

“We provide measures that ensure that individuals are not without the basic essentials. We work to ensure that all are treated with respect and dignity.

“Our asylum system is humane and compassionate. Crucially, there is oversight from the independent courts. Whenever someone needs our protection we will grant it, but where they are found not to need protection we expect them to return home.”