Many people who have survived torture are living in poverty because they are not allowed to work. A person's recovery from torture is much harder when they don't even have basic things to survive.
While people wait for a decision on their asylum claim, they are not normally allowed to work or claim benefits. Instead, they can apply for an 'asylum allowance' of £37.75 a week. That means many people who’ve survived torture are living on less than £5.40 a day for food, clothing, sanitary items, bus fare to asylum interviews - everything.
Every day, many people have to make impossible choices such as buying a winter coat to keep warm or having enough food for the rest of the week.
Survivors who are seeking asylum are offered housing to stop them from becoming homeless if they don't have anywhere else to go. Unfortunately, some of these houses are unsafe, unsanitary or not suitable for their needs.
The day-to-day struggles of living without the basics reinforce the powerlessness, fear and isolation that torture survivors inherit from their past and act as a barrier to them being able to rebuild their lives after torture.
In those days I seemed to cry a lot. Life was so difficult and my situation seemed hopeless. Living without money and a proper home made my illness worse. I was so ill that I was hospitalised for four months before I was sent to temporary accommodation.
Helping survivors who are living in poverty
Our 2013 report The Poverty Barrier: The Right to Rehabiliation for Survivors of Torture in the UK is a detailed analysis of the many financial and institutional barriers facing asylum seekers and refugees.
The evidence from our research confirmed a disturbing reality for survivors of torture in the UK. It revealed:
- Shocking levels of poverty among torture survivors - during and after their passage through the UK's asylum system.
- That the day-to-day struggles of living without the basics reinforces the powerlessness, fear and isolation, which torture survivors already feel because of their past.
- That poverty and powerlessness make it more difficult for a person to enjoy their right to rehabilitation guaranteed under international law.
Our Emergency Relief Fund
Due to the inadequate way that the Home Office aides people seeking asylum, we have an Emergency Relief Fund, which gives small one-off grants to help torture survivors with nowhere else to turn.
Our Fund is often people's last – and only – hope when poverty is standing in the way of recovery.
Over the past two years alone, we’ve made 524 individual grants amounting to over £20,000. We have had to do this stop people being forced into complete poverty because of problems with asylum payments and the Aspen card (a card given to people containing their £37.75 allowance) to everyday needs such as winter clothing and travel expenses.
Our Emergency Relief Fund exists because we believe that a dignified and healthy life doesn’t consist of one meal a day, no social contact and constant anxiety about how to provide for your children. We refuse to accept a reality in which torture survivors are forced to choose between their rehabilitation and feeding themselves.
If you would like to make a donation to support our Emergency Relief Fund, you can do so here: