JRS UK has joined with 60 leading charities to write to the Home Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking that they increase asylum support rates in line with Universal Credit.
In a joint letter drafted by charity Freedom from Torture, dozens of leading refugee and migrant charities, including Refugee Council, Amnesty International & Migrant Voice, have joined together calling upon Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak to immediately increase the support available to those in the asylum system, who are in desperate need of the same financial uplift in order to meet their essential living needs and those of their families.
To learn more about our advocacy work with other organisations during COVID-19, visit the ‘Latest work’ section of our advocacy page
At present, people in the asylum system receive £37.75 if they are supported under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, or £35.39 if they are supported under section 4 of the 1999 Act. This amounts to a little over £5 a day per person.
Even before the Coronavirus outbreak, people on asylum support struggled to meet their essential living needs on an amount of support far lower than mainstream benefits, leading to an inability to be able to afford everyday essential items and expenditures which most people take for granted including, food, toiletries, medicine, accommodation costs and travel. During the national lockdown in response to COVID-19, Asylum seekers, including torture survivors and other highly vulnerable people, are finding it even harder to buy the items that they need to keep themselves and their families healthy and safe during this pandemic. Asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their support application (those on section 98 support) are likely to be in initial accommodation now for far longer periods than intended so it is vital that they receive additional financial support to meet their living needs.
Many of those in receipt of asylum support would ordinarily use cafes and other public spaces to access free Wi-Fi as they cannot ordinarily afford mobile data or credit. Under current government guidance this is now impossible. Given that, under current circumstances, many support and advice agencies have had to revert to an entirely remote service either by telephone or online, coupled with the fact that the most up to date information from the government is distributed online, the need for additional funds to ensure communication with this isolated population is greater than ever.
In the joint-letter, JRS UK and other charities have called upon the Home Secretary and Chancellor for the Exchequer for an immediate increase of £20 per week to section 98, section 95 and section 4 support for the next 12 months in the first instance, in line with the increase in Universal Credit. They also call for Section 4 support be paid in cash.
Sophie Cartwright, JRS UK Policy Officer said: “We know that even when people seeking asylum can access support, they struggle to meet their basic needs. The COVID 19 pandemic makes this so much worse. The situation incurs a host of additional needs, and people must often rely on more expensive smaller shops because they cannot travel. Increasing asylum support, and ensuring it is all paid in cash so it can be used anywhere, are vital steps to protect people seeking asylum and ultimately public health at this time”.
To learn more about our advocacy work with other organisations, visit the ‘Latest work’ section of our advocacy page