Scots challenged to live on a fiver a day to highlight cuts to asylum support

Media Release: Embargo 00.01 October 01, 2009

Scottish Refugee Council and Poverty Alliance challenge Scots to live on a fiver a day to highlight ‘unacceptable’ cuts to asylum support

Could you live on a fiver a day? Government cuts in asylum support are set to see asylum seekers forced to live on as little as £5 a day from October 5, 2009. In response, Scottish Refugee Council and Poverty Alliance are calling on Scots to show their support by living on the same amount for just one day this month.

The call comes following the recent announcement of government plans to reduce support to single asylum seekers aged over 25 from £42.16 to just £35.13 a week from October.

Scottish Refugee Council believes these cuts - which mean asylum seekers receive only 55 per cent of income support or job seekers allowance - are unacceptable and is backing a national campaign calling on the government to rethink the move.

John Wilkes, chief executive of Scottish Refugee Council, said: “Asylum seekers are not allowed to work and so are forced to rely on government support. They are facing a complicated asylum process, are often socially isolated and have no access to credit.

“With just £35.13 each week people will really struggle to buy the basics such as food and clothing, and have enough left to pay for bus fares and phone calls to legal representatives.

“Despite the cold weather, grants for winter clothing are no longer available and disabled or ill asylum seekers – who may have sustained injuries from being subjected to torture – are not eligible for additional benefits. For these reasons we do not believe the cuts are acceptable.

“In this economic downturn many Scots already know well how hard it is to live on benefits. But by asking people to live on £5 for just one day we hope to raise awareness of just how hard this cut will hit asylum seekers.”

Peter Kelly, director of Poverty Alliance, said: “Despite the UK Governments stated intention to tackle poverty, basic benefit rates are set at well below their own definition of the poverty. As any benefit claimant will tell you, trying to make ends meet on benefits is a real struggle and for asylum seekers, having to survive on a mere £5 per day would be devastating.

“Poverty Alliance believes that economic hard times can be no excuse for cuts which target some of the most vulnerable, marginalised and poorest people in our society. We want to see a welfare system where the level of financial support is such that everyone, including asylum seekers, is raised out of poverty and treated with dignity.”

Notes:

  1. Scottish Refugee Council has also issued its challenge to all Scots to live on a fiver for one day through its Twitter and Facebook sites.

 

  1. The changes in support level, due to be implemented on October 1, will also see a single parent with one child awaiting the outcome of their application receiving only£92.97 per week. This is £2.19 less than they would receive if the rate followed the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase. A single parent asylum seeking family whose claim has been refused but who is unable to leave the UK through no fault of their own will continue to receive only £70 per week in supermarket vouchers, a support rate which has not increased since this support regime, known as Section 4. Accommodation and related costs for asylum seekers are paid for by the UK Government.

 

  1. A person is defined as an asylum seeker whilst they go through the process of claiming asylum. Under the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution in a safe country. On applying for asylum, a person’s claim is assessed by the UK Home Office against the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. If their claim is successful they are recognised officially as a refugee. Only then do they have the right to work.

 

  1. The UK hosts only two per cent of the world’s refugee population. The majority of the world’s refugees are taken care of by the poorest countries, such as Iran and Pakistan. There are currently about two million Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan.

 

  1. For more information contact Scottish Refugee Council media officers Karin Goodwin or Clare Harris on 0141 223 7927/07734 030 763 or Poverty Alliance Policy and Campaigns Officer Maggie Kelly on 0141 353 0440 or 07910341186. See www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk or www.povertyalliance.org