Is it possible to survive in London on just £10 a week? Jonathan Cox decided to find out and chronicle his discovery through his blog. Like many destitute asylum seekers, Jonathan needs to make that £10 cover seven days worth of food, travel and other basics.
Jonathan’s experiment is part of the Living Ghosts Endurance Challenge, a campaign by Church Action on Poverty and supported by the Refugee Council to highlight the poverty of refused asylum seekers. As a staff member of the Refugee Council, he’s only too aware that negative press coverage of asylum seekers can hide the public from difficult circumstances they sometimes face. He hopes to combat this scepticism by explaining how someone who normally lives quite comfortably has found the experience.
Funny and thought-provoking, Jonathan’s blog describes the difficulties of living on £10 a week: being able to buy nothing but processed food, not being able to afford to travel on public transport, to have a social life or even to make a phone call – and how being constantly hungry affects his ability to work.
“This low-level hunger affects my concentration… I find myself getting angry and frustrated more easily… I drift off and have to really concentrate on paying attention to others… your concentration is shot and you just do not feel all there. That’s how I feel most of the time now…”
When an asylum seeker’s claim is refused, the Home Office gives them two weeks’ notice to leave their accommodation, their financial provision is stopped and they are expected to leave the country. For many, the prospect of returning to their home country is too frightening and so they take the decision to live in destitution in the UK. These ‘Living Ghosts’ go largely unnoticed by the rest of society. Some of them manage to access projects run by the British Red Cross. They receive £5 a week and a basic food parcel.
After Jonathan’s first day he feels “faint, light-headed, unsteady on my feet and my heart was racing.This was bad enough for one day. For a Living Ghost who has to live this way day in day out, it must be truly debilitating.”
Please note: Jonathan’s decision to take part in the Living Ghosts campaign and to write a blog on his experience was taken on his own merit. Although the Refugee Council obviously supports him in his endeavours, we were not involved in his decision to do it. We also do not take responsibility for anything written on his blog either by Jonathan or other contributors.