Asylum seekers who are entitled to hard-case support receive an Azure card of just over £35 per week which is meant to cover all food, toiletries, clothing, travel and other daily essentials. The card is only redeemable in certain named shops for a restricted range of items. ‘Solange’ from the Democratic Republic of Congo speaks about her experience of this system and how it makes her and others she knows feel.
Some people, they are getting voucher, there are different voucher… They come from the government, they give asylum seekers vouchers or pre-payment money cards to survive. Maybe there is something you want to buy, but you can’t buy because you have voucher. Even in the supermarket, there are something you can buy and something not e.g. you can buy food, but not mobile phone top-up. Maybe you don’t want food, you might want some cream from the chemist or clothes. In the supermarket there are clothes, but you might want to go to another shop, but you can’t because you can’t use the voucher. You can only go to the supermarket, and not all the supermarkets are selling clothes, not the one in your area, to go to another supermarket you have to take transport. Something you need you can’t find it.
I think they (the refugees) are not feeling good, it is a stress, if you use a voucher everywhere you feel better, if you can just use it. It is a different culture here, maybe you want to buy food in the African shops or Asian shops. At the check out, many people don’t know what (the card) is, they say wait, they call the manager, if the manager come, they check the list. Some people feel ashamed because when they bring the card. In the queue, they are feeling shame and stress, the other people in the queue are waiting and everyone starts looking, what is her situation?
Why don’t they just give them money? Why is it different? They can’t use it. Maybe it is better to give people something they want, or give them a voucher that they can use everywhere. It is not easy to manage. If they found jobs for asylum seekers it would be better. Some people would like to work but don’t have papers to work, it is better for someone to work, it is better. It is a good way to help government for the economy, paying tax… not giving money it gives nothing… it is better to give work than give money. If you (are in) a good condition, you can work, some people they have a problem with language, but you can work, some jobs you don’t need to speak.
Their life is not easy. I don’t know what to say about that, (asylum seekers) get nothing, no papers, no work, no benefit, many people they are getting stressed, getting heart attack. And some people become thief in the shop to get food, and then they get caught and put in prison. Some friends are helping them, some charity are helping them, but I don’t know how so say it, it is not a good life. If you don’t have a strong heart, you can do bad things, because you don’t have nothing, there are too many problems. It is not easy. You had a problem back home, and you think if you come here, you will have peace and then you have another problem!