Home Office profits from the Azure card

Boy on Step c:iStock
Responding to concerns about destitution

It is now a well documented fact. The Azure payment card leaves many living in hunger and deprivation.

It was introduced at the end of 2009 to replace the use of supermarket vouchers for asylum seekers whose claim had been refused but who were still unable to return to their country.

The card is topped up weekly with £35 for a single person and can be used in a limited number of supermarket outlets. It cannot be exchanged for cash, and only £5 can be carried over to the next week.

Unspent credit

What seems extraordinary is that Immigration Minister Damian Green announced in Parliament yesterday that the estimated amount of unspent credit recovered from the Azure card in its first year of operation was a massive £650,000.

What does this tell us? That asylum seekers on Section Four support, with no other form of income, don’t need their £35 a week? Unlikely. More probably, the system is confusing and poorly explained.

One refugee support agency says, “We had somebody who hadn’t understood about not being able to carry over money and, because he’s only had the letter in English and hadn’t understood it which is hardly surprising when you read the letter, and he’s then decided to go shopping every two weeks. So when he went on the second week he found that £30 had been wiped off his card.” 

And one of our clients who uses the Azure card says, “The money I receive every week on the card is only enough to buy food - I cannot afford to buy cleaning products, clothes etc.” (SRC client)

Backed up by research

Our report, Your inflexible friend: the cost of living without cash, brings to light a wide range of problems caused by having to use the card. Problems include people being unable to buy enough food to feed themselves and their children. And yet, the Home Office has managed to make more than half a million from the scheme.

Take action

Write to Damian Green 

Have you been living on the Azure card? Tell us your experiences.

(2) Comments

  • Anonymous commenter
    17 November 2010, 16:11

    The government should hang it's head in shame. To deny the most vulnerable in this way is just not on.

  • Anonymous commenter
    08 December 2010, 11:30

    This is disgusting. The way we treat people who come to us for help makes me ashamed to be Scottish/British.

    I know someone forced to use this card, it creates lots of problems. For example he can't get a haircut or buy clothes (except from Tesco and Asda). And he can forget ever getting to go to the cinema, let alone maybe getting out once a month. The cash he does get doesn't cover the cost of a monthy zone card - so public transport is chaos for him.

    Why doesn't the Scottish Government ask banks (or the UK Government - which practically owns RBS) to provide a basic account for Asylum Seekers? That would let people decide how to spend their money. This Azure card is a disgrace.

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