Most people seeking asylum [in the UK] know little about the benefits system and have no expectation of receiving financial support. Furthermore, they are not allowed to claim benefits.
Currently most people seeking asylum are given asylum support of £6.43 a day (£45 per week) for food, sanitation, powdered milk, nappies and clothing! Before last month, they received even less but the High Court judged the levels of payments unlawful and raised the amount by 10%. Those for whom food is provided in hotels, which is the case in a few hotels in Gloucestershire, only receive £8 per week. Sadly, it can take a long time for even these payments to be issued. One person known to us waited from March until October.
Most people seeking asylum in the UK are not allowed to work. They can apply for permission to work if they have waited for over one year for a decision on their asylum claim, and they themselves are not responsible for the delay in decision making. This however, is still restricted, and asylum seekers who have been given permission to work for these reasons can only apply for jobs on the UK’s Official Shortage Occupation List – one example being classical ballet dancers.
While housing is provided, the asylum seeker has no choice in where to live. It is often ‘hard to let’ properties which Council tenants do not want to live in, or hotels with little amenities. As you will have seen in the press, the housing granted is often of a very poor standard.
It is difficult to imagine what it would be like to flee from your home in desperation, leaving friends and possessions behind, and journey to a distant country where you probably know little of your new surroundings and are at the mercy of the authorities. The hostile environment of the past few years only adds to the distress suffered.
No – people seeking asylum are not here for the UK’s benefits system!
Ed: UNHCR issued a statement on 7 March 2023 that the UK Asylum Bill “… if passed, would amount to an asylum ban” and that “This would be a clear breach of the Refugee Convention and would undermine a longstanding, humanitarian tradition of which the British people are rightly proud.”
West England Bylines would like thank Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees for permission to reproduce their material.