Home Office leaves the vulnerable out on a limb

“Decision treats vulnerable people as the lowest of the low”

Scottish Refugee Council is appalled at the decision by Home Office Minister James Brokenshire today to leave the already pitifully low asylum support rates unchanged. This condemns many vulnerable asylum seekers – men, women and children who have fled torture, persecution and sexual violence and who have often lost loved ones – to an impoverished and miserable existence in the UK.

The decision by the Home Office was announced in a letter from Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire MP and will keep rates as low as £5 per day for essential living costs. The decision comes on the same day that Brokenshire’s colleague, Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds MP, resigned his post citing “intolerable Parliamentary allowances”, such as nearly £28,000 a year for accommodation.

In the Home Office letter it claims that a man or woman seeking sanctuary in the UK can survive each week on £23.88 for food, £2.51 for clothing and footwear, £3 for travel, £1.08 for toiletries, and just 92p for household cleaning products.  

Most of our own weekly spending needs show that these figures are unrealistic, with many people struggling to survive even on much higher income support levels. Scottish Refugee Council rejects the inhumane approach to identifying and meeting the real needs of people claiming asylum in the UK that is reflected in the Minister’s letter. No person, asylum seeker or otherwise, should be treated in this way.

Asylum support is a tiny proportion of the UK social security budget. Welfare spending is typically over £160 billion annually across the UK – whereas asylum support rates were around £57.4 million last year. This makes asylum support allowances less than 0.04% of the UK social security budget*.

Scottish Refugee Council Acting Chief Executive Gary Christie said: “It’s clear that the Home Office had already made its decision to force people seeking asylum into penury and then concocted the justification for it, rather than basing it on the reality of people’s lived lives. What this decision does is castigate some of the most vulnerable people in the UK as the lowest of the low and calls into serious question this government’s commitment to the UK’s proud history of welcoming refugees.”

“It would cost us little to extend a more humane and dignified living budget to those who are in need of it.”

Scottish Refugee Council is calling for asylum support to be brought under the remit of the Department of Work and Pensions to sit alongside the rest of the social security budget. We also back the move to ensure asylum support rates are at least 70% of income support rates and yet again call for the right to work so that asylum seekers can support themselves.

Not only do asylum support rates sit more appropriately with other welfare funds, but there would also be practical benefits to moving to an established infrastructure, particularly in light of the recent Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration report, which highlighted serious failings in the Home Office’s administration of asylum support.

 *Sources: DWP spending: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AonYZs4MzlZbdHNXNW4yTlNMZllOZmRSOTRWTDNwWXc#gid=11

Asylum support spending: Figure from letter from Minister for Security and Immigration James Brokenshire MP on asylum support decision 11/08/14

Notes:

In October 2013, the Home Affairs Committee issued a report in which it highlighted “concerns about the level of support available to those who seek asylum in the UK” and noted that the “relative poverty” of those on Section 95 “is compounded by the fact that the vast majority of asylum applicants have not legally been allowed to work since 2002.”[1]

The public can encourage their MPs to sign Early Day Motion 99 asking for fairer asylum support rates. Westminster is currently in recess but MPs can sign the motion once Parliament sits again on 1 September.

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Home Affairs Committee, Asylum, Seventh report of session 2013-14, paragraph 77 and press release 10 October 2013

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