Unity’s Response to Racist Cuts to Support for Asylum Seeking Families

From today, support rates for asylum seekers with children have been cut dramatically¹. A single parent with one child will now have just £10.55 to live on per day. The government have unjustifiably cut what were already pitiful, insufficient amounts. How can a parent feed themselves and a growing child 3 meals a day on £10? Let alone provide for other essential living needs?

Particularly baffling is that the government is targeting children with these cuts. How can these cuts be safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, as the Home Office and those performing immigration functions, are legally obliged to do?

Let us be clear that this is an ideologically motivated attack on asylum seekers, as just 0.1% of government spending on benefits was spent on asylum seekers last year.

The government did not consult with anyone before enacting these cuts, they made them following unpublished internal research. It is illegal for asylum seekers to work while the Home Office process their claim² so most are forced to be reliant on asylum support. Asylum support is not automatic, instead it is an often lengthy and always bureaucratic process whereby an asylum seeker must apply and prove that they are destitute*.

Fundamentally, it is irresponsible to cut the only support available to destitute asylum seekers based on internal research. Especially as the government’s methods for such internal workings was only last year found to be unlawful and flawed.

The government’s internal research this time has found that asylum support rates mean asylum seekers have too much money. If MPs on £90,000 salaries complain that they’re counting the pennies and need a pay rise you can be sure that asylum seekers on Section 95 support aren’t rolling in money.

Asylum support payments are a fraction of UK benefits. People living in the UK on mainstream benefits are suffering, with families especially being plunged into poverty by cuts, yet asylum support rates are cruelly calculated as a fraction of the amounts available to UK citizens³. Asylum seekers are trying to survive in the very same country. These double standards are simply racist and these further cuts abhorrent.

The government knows that if charities and NGOs were given the opportunity to present the reality of those living on asylum support rates, they could not make these cuts. That is why they flatly refused to consider independent research on the matter.

A legal challenge, brought and won last year by Refugee Action was against asylum support rates being frozen since 2011, not rising with inflation or taking into account some essential living needs such as nappies and travel to essential appointments.

“The evidence of various NGOs and charities was that the existing level of support for asylum seekers was causing real hardship, including missing meals and parents prioritising feeding their children over themselves, women being unable to afford sanitary protection, pregnant and nursing mothers being unable to afford a healthy and balanced diet, asylum seekers struggling to buy adequate clothing, particularly during the winter months, or to replace items of clothing and shoes when they wear out and many asylum seekers struggle to buy adequate toiletries or household cleaning products, and non-prescription medications.” Read More

The ruling was damning and while charities called for rates to increase to prevent destitution and suffering, the government was forced to re-do its research. There has been constant pressure on the government to reform it’s ill treatment of asylum seekers.

Yet mere months after the Home Office was shamed in the High Court, these cuts were tabled in March – they were quickly withdrawn after public outcry. Now, the government has ruthlessly but quietly pushed through these catastrophic cuts.

Using the current media storm about Calais as cover and borrowing from the press’s racist repertoire, the government is legislating viciously to tackle “illegal” immigration by punishing asylum seeking families in the UK. Let us cut the rhetoric and say simply that pushing people further into poverty in the UK will not do anything to stop refugees fleeing their countries. Rather it will have an unquestionably devastating, if not fatal effect on families whose lives are hard enough already.

It is unforgiveable and irresponsible to make these cuts, but it is also unviable – responsibility and further pressure will fall on groups such as Unity – working at capacity, underfunded and overwhelmed by the already insufferable conditions created by the state’s ineffective, unjust, racist systems. We cannot afford to bridge this gap nor to mitigate the effects of this attack.

As individuals with salaries much higher than asylum support rates and no political will to help asylum seekers, the government is not best placed to be conducting internal research nor to be basing cuts upon it. The people they are legislating against are the most vulnerable in society, many having fled unimaginable persecution in their home countries and already struggling to survive on a fraction of what UK benefits claimants receive.

• We call for there to be INDEPENDENT RESEARCH into the reality of asylum seekers living on asylum support

• We call on the government to REVERSE THESE CUTS

• We call for asylum support rates to INCREASE (and we are not alone, even MPs see the sense in this)

• We call on the public to SHARE THE FACTS

• We call on the public to DENOUNCE THE CUTS and stand in SOLIDARITY with asylum seekers and asylum seeking families whose support has been dramatically cut from today

Unity will not endure these cuts silently and we will publicise their effects. We stand in solidarity with asylum seeking families in the face of these brutal, unjustifiable racist cuts**.

 

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1 –

Single Parent +1 Child Single Parent +2 Children Couple + 1 child Couple + 2 children
Current payment £96.90 £149.86 £125.48 £178.44
New Payment £73.90 £110.85 £110.85 £147.80

 

2 – Though asylum seekers are employed inside immigration detention centres for £1 an hour, saving multinational companies millions and going against everything politicians seem to be saying about ‘rogue employers’ and ‘illegal working’. This film, ‘Working Illegally’, should be shared widely!

3 – Originally calculated as a proportion of income support but never rising with inflation and now having no correlation, it is absolutely insufficient.

 
* The Home Office do not deal with applications directly; instead they have privatised the advice and applications process. Applications for asylum support are currently made through Migrant Help. Migrant Help won the contract to do this from April 2014 but instead of employing staff to offer face-to-face appointments as the previous provider did, they run a telephone service. Average wait times to be connected to English advisers are over an hour, other languages even longer. Until the rates for calling 0808 numbers changed in July, calling Migrant Help’s number was chargeable from people’s mobiles. The application cannot be completed in one phone call – asylum seekers are told to collect and collate evidence themselves and then send documents, as well as making follow-up phone calls, always to this 0808 number with excruciating wait times. It is an unworkable system and thoroughly inappropriate given the complexity of applications and vulnerability of asylum seekers. Unity suffers greatly as a result of this inefficient privatisation – with money in mind the Home Office have contracted Migrant Help to assist with asylum support applications, when their service simply does not offer what is necessary. Every day we are inundated with asylum seekers at Unity, in need of asylum support but unaware or unable to apply for it alone, or in need of help resolving the relentless problems that arise once support has been awarded. Unity are hoping to publicise more on this matter imminently!

** And will fight against further plots to cut support even more.