Asylum support campaign update

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. 

Five weeks into the COVID-19 lockdown: 17,000 people have signed the petition urging for the Home Secretary Priti Patel to urgently raise the asylum allowance in line with Universal Credit. 

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.

No one should have to choose between hand sanitiser and food at a time like this.

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. 

Yours sincerely,

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