Refugee Council: "Government must end this policy immediately, and offer people cash support"
9th October 2008: The Government’s policy that forces asylum seekers in the UK to live on vouchers is making people starve and have poor health, a new report by Refugee Council reveals.
Individuals, couples and families with children whose claims have been refused but who are still in the country, either because they are waiting to return home voluntarily or because it is not safe for them to return home, are being given £35 in vouchers per week to support themselves.
Refugee Council says that in 2000, the Government introduced vouchers for people seeking asylum, but was forced to end this policy 18 months later following widespread condemnation that it was inhumane. Since then, it has in fact continued this policy by stealth, giving vouchers to people who are at the end of the process and only entitled to limited support.
Refugee Council’s report into the consequences of this policy shows that people living on vouchers must walk miles to the nearest supermarket that will accept the vouchers, as they have no cash for public transport.
Families are struggling to buy nappies and other provisions for their babies, and some are so desperate they are exchanging £35 in vouchers for £25 in cash.
Ms. Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said: “The evidence contained in this report is truly shocking. Vulnerable people, often with babies and very young children, are being forced into severely impoverished circumstances as a result of a policy which this very government recognised as unacceptable seven years ago and abolished.
“These are people who are fully co-operating with the authorities, who are in many cases just waiting to return home as soon as they can, or who are from places like Zimbabwe where it is not safe to return. They have no choice but to remain here for the time being, and are not allowed to work. Forcing them to live like this is disgraceful.”
Ms. Covey said the “situation is both appalling and unsustainable”. She appealed to the Government to “end this policy immediately, and offer people cash support.”
She pointed out that the real solution to the problem is to let people work while they are in the UK, “allowing them to contribute to the communities in which they live and not forcing them to rely on inadequate state handouts.”
By Stephen Ogongo