The Home Office faces a Legal Battle over a lack of asylum support
The UK Home Office has become ensnared in yet another legal battle over the bitterly inadequate lack of support asylum seekers receive.
Asylum seekers are suffering under the lockdown rules, their struggles exacerbated as COVID-19 highlights inequalities in societies across the globe and the starkly entrenched divide the UK.
Home Secretary Priti Patel refused to budge in a recent parliamentary hearing, claiming the Home Office’s policies regarding asylum support was “absolutely” ensuring asylum seekers were protected.
When asked about raising that support by £20.00 per week to mirror the increase for Universal Credit applicants, Patel stated she had not seen evidence suggesting asylum seekers were unable to meet their most basic needs with the financial support already given.
Patel may not have seen “evidence” of asylum seekers’ struggles attempting to survive on approximately £5 per day, but that evidence exists. 42-year-old asylum seeker Shams, based in Darlington, spoke out about his experience being forced to travel to more expensive supermarkets due to the grocery shortages.
Patel stated she had not seen evidence suggesting asylum seekers were unable to meet their most basic needs with the financial support already given
“I have to pick up the things going out of date. You can’t have fresh things, like a bag of onions. You have to get frozen food,” Shams said, highlighting how the lack of financial help affects those at risk of destitution and has a knock-on effect on their health.
Approximately 44,000 asylum seekers live in the UK, surviving on £37.75 per week. Charities fear that as their face-to-face support dwindles and restrictions are imposed regarding when and where people can shop, many asylum seekers are being forced to choose between essentials.
Four asylum seekers are seeking to challenge the Home Office over the financial support rate during this time of crisis. Their lawyers argue that the lack of increased support breaches human rights law.
Duncan Lewis Solicitors’ pre-action letter to the Home Office states the department needs to address the “support gap” now blindingly obvious due to the current situation. The firm argues that a temporary increase of the support rates “ensures purchasing power at least equivalent to that in the pre-pandemic period.”
A claimant known only as ‘A’ shares her bedsit with her husband, two children – aged 3 and 8 – and shares the kitchen with another family of four. One of A’s daughters has asthma and her husband is diabetic. A travels further afield for shopping once a week in an attempt to stretch their allowance as far as possible. Vouchers they were able to access previously are no longer an option due to lockdown closures.
Patel may not have seen “evidence” of asylum seekers’ struggles attempting to survive on approximately £5 per day, but that evidence exists
A said: “Me and my husband don’t eat in the mornings. When my daughter was going to school, she ate breakfast and lunch there, but now she’s at home.”
Toufique Hossain, Director of Public Law at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, said the Home Secretary has “seen the evidence” from leading charities and those working on the frontline with vulnerable asylum seekers and should stop “hide[ing] behind her ignorance.” Hossain said the pre-action letter is “shining a bright light on the desperate measures being adopted by asylum seekers to survive in this period.”
A Home Office spokesperson said they are reviewing the level of cash allowance for asylum seekers in line with their usual annual review.