The Refugee Council today publishes a new report into the consequences of a government policy that forces some asylum seekers to live on vouchers while they are in the UK.
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.
In 2000, the government introduced vouchers for people seeking asylum, but was forced to end this policy eighteen 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.
The Refugee Council’s report reveals the devastating impact this policy has had. People living on vouchers are hungry and in poor health. They are forced to 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.
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.
“This situation is both appalling and unsustainable. The government must end this policy immediately, and offer people cash support. But the real solution lies in letting people work while they are here, allowing them to contribute to the communities in which they live and not forcing them to rely on inadequate state handouts.”
Notes to editors
1. The full report is available at www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/s4vouchers.
2. Case studies are available for interview. To request an interview, or for further information, please contact Hannah Ward on 020 7346 1213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.