Asylum seekers are struggling to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The government has stepped in offering more support to people on mainstream benefits, yet people on asylum support are yet to see the same provisions to help them get through the crisis. Here are the latest updates from our campaign to rectify this injustice.
The letter, signed by sixty charities, pressed for urgent action and highlighted the difference that uplifting asylum allowance by just £20 per week would make to asylum seekers who are, at present, forced to choose between eating and other basic essentials.
It took the Home Office three weeks to reply, and having done so simply stated it was "reviewing policies and processes in relation to the Covid-19 outbreak". But five weeks is a long time when you're an asylum seeker living in poverty.
Here’s an extract from the Home Office response:
The Home Office is currently reviewing policies and processes in accordance with Public Health England advice in relation to the Covid-19 outbreak to ensure people can continue to access essential systems whilst maintaining adherence to social distancing guidance. Thank you for sharing the views and observations, which we will reflect upon.
Our response to the Home Secretary:
We came together again to urge the Home Secretary to change her mind - please read our letter below.
What's next for the asylum allowance campaign?
Wednesday 28th April, the Home Secretary Priti Patel will be addressing the Home Affairs Committee where she will be discussing the challenges facing vulnerable individuals including migrants, asylum seekers and those in immigration detention.
You can watch this meeting live from 10.30am on Parliament TV.
Dear Home Secretary,
We note the response from your officials on 21st April to the letter we sent to yourself and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 3rd April seeking an urgent £20 per week increase to asylum support rates in line with the uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit on 20th March.
It has now been over a month since the announcement of this uplift to mainstream welfare benefits, and three weeks since we wrote to you to request that the same need be recognised within the asylum-seeking population. We are disappointed that the response we received does not reflect the urgency of this issue or the very clear and specific nature of our request. We believe that a decision must be taken on this issue immediately.
As you will have seen in recent media coverage of this issue, vulnerable asylum seekers are going hungry or having to make an unforgivable choice between essential items required to keep their family safe and healthy during the pandemic. The inadequacy of asylum support rates in comparison to mainstream welfare benefits is not a new problem, but the urgency of the current need for additional support demands immediate action.
We ask again 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. We are also asking that Section 4 support be accessible in cash.
Every day that goes by prolongs and compounds the financial hardship experienced by asylum seekers during the pandemic. They deserve the same ‘safety net’ that is being provided to those on mainstream welfare benefits.
Sonya Sceats, CEO, Freedom from Torture
Maurice Wren, CEO, Refugee Council
Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive, Scottish Refugee Council
Andrea Cleaver, Interim Chief Executive, Welsh Refugee Council Kerry Smith, CEO, Helen Bamber Foundation
Alice Webb, Director, Asylum Support Appeals Project
Bella Sankey, Director, Detention Action
Nazek Ramadan, Director, Migrant Voice
Sarah Teather, Director, Jesuit Refugee Service Natasha Walter, Director, Women for Refugee Women
Ros Bragg, Director, Maternity Action
Hazel Williams, Director, NACCOM
Sonia Lenegan, Legal Director, Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association Leila Zadeh, Executive Director, UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group Jon Beech, Director, Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network Sally Daghlian, CEO, Praxis
Lisa Matthews, Coordinator, Right to Remain
Daf Viney, Director of services, Hackney Migrant Centre Emily Crowley, Chief Executive, Student Action for Refugees Mel Steel, Director, Voices in Exile
Sue Bent, CEO, Central England Law Centre
Abi Brunswick, Director, Project 17 Tanya Long, Director, Samphire Ex-Detainee Project
Rabbi Alexandra Wright, Senior Rabbi, The Liberal Jewish Synagogue
Sarah Taal, Director & Advocate, Baobab Women’s Project
Janet Fuller, Project Manager, Derby Refugee Advice Centre
Rosario Guimba-Stewart, Chief Executive Officer, Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network Maya Esslemont, Director, After Exploitation
Anna Pincus, Director, Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
Karolina Maroszek, Manager, Haringey Migrant Support Centre
Will Sutcliffe, Chair, Bradford City of Sanctuary
Traci Kirkland, Head of Charity, Govan community project
Joanne MacInnes, Director, West London Welcome Centre for Refugees and Migrants Karen Pearse, Director, PAFRAS
Amanda Church-McFarlane, Destitution Project Coordinator, Abigail Housing
Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE) Loraine Masiya Mponela, Chairperson, Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group
Beth Wilson, Director, Bristol Refugee Rights
Celia Sands, Director, South London Refugee Association
Matt Atkins, Director, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum
Jane Henson, Chair, HOST Nottingham
Pete Hobson, Chair, Leicester City of Sanctuary
Nick Watts, Director, Together with Migrant Children
Felix Kupay, Chairperson, ENTRAIDE (Mutual Aid)
Peter D.Hall, Co-ordinator, Croydon Refugee Day Centre
Helen Syrop, Hope Housing Manager, Hope Housing
Debbie Moss, Advice Services Supervisor, Coventry Refugee & Migrant Centre
Maggie Pearse, Coordinator, Bradford Immigration & Asylum support & Advice Network Jan Foster, Trustee, Doncaster Conversation Club
Judy Rogers, Skipton Refugee Support Group
Sebastian Rocca, Founder & CEO, Micro Rainbow
Caron Boulghassoul, CEO, Nottingham Arimathea Trust
Siân Summers-Rees, Chief Officer, City of Sanctuary UK
Jess McQuail, Director, Just Fair
James Birchall, Director, Fuse Art Space Dorota Kordecka, Co-founder and project coordinator, Central and Eastern European community Art and Resources
Reverend Steve Lees, Priest in Charge, St James' Vicarage
Reverend Sarah Jemison, Chair, BEACON (Bradford Ecumenical Concern) Reverend Sue Jennings, Associate Vicar, Parish of Girlington, Heaton and Manningham Vie Clerc, Yorkshire Advocate, The3Million
Vie Clerc, Vice Chair, Global Bradford