'Unjust and inhumane': Life on £36.62 per week
Freedom from Torture staff and supporters joined STAR for a week of action in support of asylum seekers (20-26 February 2012). This is Lucy Bloxam's final blog about her week of living on £5 per day (the national asylum allowance). Lucy is an English Language teacher and intern in London.
Wednesday was an optimistic day – another cycle journey towards feeling like a 'pro'. I'm glad for the exercise, though, as I ate pasta again for lunch today and rice for dinner. Carbohydrates seem to be the cheapest and blandest option available for this budget. Everything else I've pondered over in a shop or market this week has been more expensive and far less filling. All week I've been buying food at low cost which will keep me going for the day. It's been pretty unhealthy.
So, not only do asylum seekers in the UK have the task of finding food at such a low cost, day-in day-out, but they're forced to eat food that lacks nutrition and the basic vitamins we need. I missed breakfast had a very bland lunch and then – guess what was waiting for me when I got home? – more pasta! I couldn't afford anything else so just had it with tomato sauce. I really felt like having some fruit or a nice dessert but I couldn't afford it.
Thursday was much the same as Wednesday and I'd started to feel a little down in the dumps. Constantly having to calculate money means you're worrying about money and how to feed yourself all the time. Every day thousands of asylum seekers in the UK constantly think and worry about how they'll survive. We've heard of this happening in many countries all over the world. We see this in adverts that interrupt TV programmes and on billboards on the London Underground and we associate it with a far-flung country which we are completely distanced from, but people are living in appalling conditions in this country. People are worrying about how they'll survive in this country.
On Friday, I couldn't cycle to work and, without my Oyster travelcard [which had been sold to a friend to save money], I had to buy a travelcard for the day. It pains me to say that a travelcard in London costs £8.40 which apparently is the same price as a return! Two journeys on the tube and I'd already gone way over my allowance for the day. I'm really curious to know how asylum seekers travel anywhere, especially in London.
During this week I've been reading more and more about what Freedom from Torture offers torture survivors who are asylum seekers and it's great to learn that this amazing organization gives clients free travel to get to its centres. This means that many people who would be alone or unable to afford to go anywhere can travel to Freedom from Torture for free. Here they can take part in creative therapies and group work as well as receiving counselling and be in an environment where they are welcome, free, encouraged to overcome their traumas and begin to build a new life for themselves in the UK.
This week has confirmed my belief that £36.62 is a completely unfair amount to expect anyone to live on in the UK. I've learnt that in order to do this you have to think about every penny. Even then, your health and general well-being suffers. Doing this for just a week was quite depressing so I can't imagine what it's like to do this all the time, every day. Being forced to live on £36.62 per week week is unjust, inhumane and undeserved to people who come to this country for a second chance and do everything right going through an extremely difficult process whilst living in poverty in a rich and prosperous society. A society which could (and should) give just a little bit more.