Asylum seekers forced to survive for up to four years with no cash

Media Release

Embargo Friday, October 23, 00:01


Asylum seekers forced to survive for up to four years with no cash


New research by Scottish Refugee Council reveals large numbers of asylum seekers in Scotland surviving with no cash for years at a time, and for the wrong reasons.


The Section 4 support system provides basic accommodation and £35 a week in vouchers, which can only be spent in selected shops. It was supposed to be a short-term measure for people whose initial asylum claim had been refused, but is now being used to support people for as long as four years – as well as people whose claim is still active.


Scottish Refugee Council figures indicate of 330 people on Section 4 support, 39 per cent had been on Section 4 for over two years, and 16 per cent for three years or more.


Just as strikingly, 53 per cent of clients on Section 4 had claims that were still active – and were either going through judicial review or had fresh evidence to support their case to stay here. While going through the process, asylum seekers are not allowed to work to support themselves.


The report will be released at the Scottish Refugee Council autumn conference on Friday, October 23rd.


John Wilkes, Chief Executive at Scottish Refugee Council, said: “The fact that Section 4 is being used at all is wrong. Nobody should have to survive on a cashless support system. But the fact that vulnerable people are living like this for years is even more shocking. Those in the asylum process should be able to work to support themselves – not treated in this inhumane and degrading way.”


One woman from Cameroon said: “If you still have your asylum case you need to be active or travelling. There is obviously no money for you to top up your phone or to move from one place to another to gather something to support your case… and when you don’t do that, you know the consequences… It’s really difficult to pursue your case because you don’t have the means. It’s difficult to do anything without money”.


Interviews are available. For more details contact Clare Harris or Karin Goodwin, Media and Communications Officers, on 0141 223 7927/ 07734 030763 or by email at




Notes to Editors:


-       The Scottish Refugee Council autumn conference takes place on Friday October 23rd from 9am to 4.40pm at 29, Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow.


-       Scottish Refugee Council advocates that all of those seeking asylum should be permitted to work. This would allow them to support themselves and their families without relying on government support, and would also enable them to better integrate into host communities.


The Home Office define applicability for Section 4 thus:
You must be destitute and satisfy one of the following requirements:

  • you are taking all reasonable steps to leave the United Kingdom or placing yourself in a position where you can do so;
  • you are unable to leave the United Kingdom because of a physical barrier to travel or for some other medical reason;
  • you are unable to leave the United Kingdom because the UK Border Agency believes there is no safe route available;
  • you have either applied for a judicial review of your asylum application in Scotland or applied for a judicial review of your asylum application in England, Wales or Northern Ireland and been given permission to proceed with it; or
  • accommodation is necessary to prevent a breach of your rights, within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998.




-       Scottish Refugee Council provides help and advice to those who have fled human rights abuses or other persecution in their homeland and now seek refuge in Scotland. We are a membership organisation that works independently and in partnership with others to provide support to refugees from arrival to settlement and integration into Scottish society. We campaign to ensure that the UK Government meets its international, legal and humanitarian obligations and to raise awareness of refugee issues. For more information see