Charities working to support asylum seekers have suggested the weekly allowance be increased by £20, in line with the Universal Credit changes that were announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as the coronavirus crisis continues.
Sunak has increased the standard allowance of Universal Credit by £20 a week for the next year, an increase of more than £1,000 a year, in a bid to assist those claiming the benefit or for new claimants as many faced job losses when the UK went into lockdown.
Asylum seekers have an allowance of a paltry £37.75 per week of financial support which equates to approximately £5 a day for the basics such as food, clothing and toiletries. If an individual is destitute, they can apply under Section 98 for full-board accommodation in allocated temporary housing, but it means they will not have any cash support added.
Over sixty charities and organisations, including the Refugee Council, have pointed out that if Universal Credit can be increased as the government recognises those accessing the welfare support will struggle at this time, surely asylum seekers deserve the same rights extended to them.
The letter was sent to the Home Secretary and Chancellor to urge them to consider that additional living costs, as recognised by the support the government is putting in place for others, needs to extend to other vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers in the UK.
The tiny allowance asylum seekers currently survive on is being stretched even further than usual due to social distancing rules
The charities are concerned that the tiny allowance asylum seekers currently survive on is being stretched even further than usual due to social distancing rules. This include asylum seekers having to rely on local shops with higher prices closer to their accommodation rather than the cheaper supermarkets.
Chief Executive of Homeless Link, Rick Henderson, said: “Their [asylum seekers] weekly budgets cannot stretch to buy the essential goods they need in local shops and leave them no choice but to continue to visit shops regularly, against public health advice.”
The letter also asks that those who have been refused asylum have cash benefits during this crisis as charities supporting failed asylum seekers close their doors, unable to safely operate under the conditions of lockdown.
UKLGIG, a charity that seeks to promote and support equality for LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum in Britain, has said the proposed increase would support individuals accessing support and remaining connected.
UKLGIG’s Executive Director Leila Zadeh said that many asylum-seekers in receipt of support rely on free WiFi in public hotspots. Extra funds would help with mobile data allowances and, as Zadeh points out, most support services are now digital with mental health advice being that we stay connected to our loved ones and communities digitally.
Asylum seekers cannot be left out of the conversation if we are truly all in this together
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are reviewing the level of cash allowance, as we do every year as part of normal business, and we are taking coronavirus factors into consideration.”
Asylum seekers cannot be left out of the conversation if we are truly all in this together.