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Home Office drags feet on asylum support

ASYLUM-SEEKERS have been left to struggle on just £5.39 a day during the lockdown despite government promises to give them “the funding they need and deserve,” campaigners charged today.

Refugee-rights groups have repeatedly called on the government to increase the £36.95 weekly allowance for asylum-seekers by £20, in line with universal credit. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would review the allowance in the light of the pandemic, while PM Boris Johnson pledged on March 25 that asylum-seekers would receive “the Home Office funding they need and deserve.” 

But Refugee Action pointed out today that a decision has yet to be made. The group has accused the Home Office of dragging its feet, leaving asylum-seekers struggling to make ends meet. 

Its chief executive, Stephen Hale, said: “We have provided the Home Office with comprehensive evidence on how people seeking asylum are struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.

“People we support are having to make impossible choices between which essentials to buy, whether food, nappies for their babies, over-the-counter medication and cleaning materials.”

Ms Hale blasted that “no decision is a decision not to act” and urged the Home Office to urgently increase the allowance by £20. 

Before the lockdown, people claiming asylum were able to supplement their pitiful weekly allowance with food donations from charities and faith groups. Now most of these places are closed.

“Even in normal circumstances, living on just over £5 a day is incredibly tough,” Migrant Voice director Nazek Ramadan explained. “Right now, it’s almost impossible for someone to survive on this amount while keeping themselves and those around them safe.”
 
Ms Ramadan said the failure of the government to support asylum-seekers “marks a continuation of the hostile environment … forcing a group of people who already have no right to work and support themselves to barely survive in extreme poverty during a time of global crisis.”

Amnesty UK’s refugee & migrant rights director, Steve Valdez-Symonds, said that the pandemic had shone a light on the “inadequacy of support” given to people seeking asylum.

“The government has recognised the need to increase universal credit – a benefit from which people seeking asylum are excluded – to help people get through the pandemic. But no similar increase has been made in asylum support,” he said. “Once again, the government – and particularly the Home Office – is failing ... in its basic duty to ensure the health and welfare of people excluded from work while dependent on its processes.”

The Home Office said it was reviewing the allowance and taking the coronavirus factors into consideration. 

“Asylum-seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with free fully furnished accommodation while applications are considered,” a spokesperson said. 

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