Refugees should receive their full entitlement to benefits, says Refugee Council - Refugee Council
March 17, 2004

Refugees should receive their full entitlement to benefits, says Refugee Council

The Sun newspaper today reported that the UK Government is planning to stop refugees receiving back payments to cover the income support they missed out on while waiting for their asylum claim to be processed.

Asylum seekers are not entitled to mainstream welfare benefits; those deemed destitute are supported by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS). Current Government policy states that those awarded refugee status can apply for a backdated lump sum of the difference between support received from the NASS and the amount they would have received on full income support, from the date of their asylum application.

There is no official line from the Government confirming The Sun‘s story.

In response to this report, Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said:

“This money only goes to refugees—these are people who have been persecuted, sometimes tortured, and have arrived in the UK often with little more than the clothes on their backs. This is the group that will be penalized if back payments are stopped—there is no excuse for targeting them.

“A more successful and sensible solution would be for the Government to allow refugees to work while their cases are processed.

“The back payment itself is only paid once people are accepted by the Home Office as refugees who have fled persecution. It is done as a correction; to bring the overall level of support received up to the basic level of Income Support. Ministers themselves have argued the fairness of this in the past.

“The size of back payments depends on the length of time a case is processed. If payments are big, it is because delays are long. The single biggest cause of delay in the system is the poor quality of Home Office decisions. Getting more decisions right first time will lead to fewer appeals, speedier results, lower costs and greater public confidence in the system.

“The sooner refugees are processed fairly by the Government, the easier it is for them to start putting the traumas of persecution behind them and start to contribute to life in the UK. And this is better for all of us.”