Read the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s report ‘Not Just Another Statistic’
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has just launched a report entitled “Not Just Another Statistic” which focuses on the life experiences of four marginalised groups in Wales: people with mental health conditions, gypsy travellers, transgender people and asylum seekers and refugees. Read the report on asylum seekers and refugees.
New payment card for asylum seekers is inhumane, say leading refugee charities
Welsh Refugee Council has joined with three other leading refugee organisations in the UK, the Refugee Council, the Scottish Refugee Council and the North of England Refugee Service, to criticise a payment card recently introduced for asylum seekers, which leaves many living in hunger and deprivation.
A new report, Your inflexible friend: the cost of living without cash, published by these organisations today brings to light a wide range of problems caused by having to use the card, including being unable to buy enough food to feed themselves and their children.
The Azure card was introduced at the end of 2009 to replace the use of supermarket vouchers for asylum seekers whose claim had been refused but who were still unable to return to their country. The card is topped up weekly with £35 for a single person and can be used in a limited number of supermarket outlets. It cannot be exchanged for cash, and only £5 can be carried over to the next week.
The research found that:
- Without access to cash, over half (56%) of respondents could not pay for travel to see their legal advisers, or attend essential health appointments (53%)
- 40% were unable to buy food that met their dietary, religious, or cultural requirements in the specified supermarkets, and many experienced hunger and malnutrition as a consequence
- 9% believed the supermarkets do not offer good value for money, and that they would get better value at a market or charity shop
- 60% had experienced the card not working, including 13 people with children, and 79% reported that shop staff had refused the card, despite being in the specified supermarkets
- 56% reported feelings of anxiety and shame when using the card
The findings confirm the concerns raised by the organisations when the payment card was first introduced in 2009, and that asylum seekers living on this type of support continue to live in deprivation as a result of the card.
Mike Lewis, Chief Executive of the Welsh Refugee Council said:
“The Home Office accepts that many refused asylum seekers still need support payments – for example because they are making preparations to return home, or are too ill to travel, or are unable to get the documents required to re-enter their country. The cheapest method of supporting them is to provide them with cash. Living on £5 a day is hard enough, but the Azure card, like its predecessor the voucher scheme, is inefficient, demeaning and unreasonable. Scrapping the Azure card would be a win-win decision, benefiting both the Treasury and the asylum seekers.”