Asylum seeker campaign groups Housing4All and STAR* are staging a “Demand Dignity – Demand Equality” protest outside City Hall, Belfast today (Monday 5th February) to voice their indignation at the paltry 80p increase in asylum support due to take effect today.

The asylum seeker weekly allowance will increase from £36.95 to £37.75, and according to the Home Office has been “carefully calculated” to “meet the essential needs of asylum seekers.”

Housing 4All believe that this rise is far from sufficient to maintain a minimum standard of living and allow asylum seekers to live with dignity. 

Sipho Sibanda, a member of Housing4All is originally from Zimbabwe and came to seek asylum in Belfast in 2015. She said:

“This tiny increase on the small allowance we are currently getting is not enough to live in dignity. People flee violence and war to be met by a system which is cruel and inhumane. How am I expected to live on £37.75 a week? Where is the dignity in having to constantly rely on food banks, handouts from charities and kindness of others?  We deserve a life we can LIVE, not just exist. How is my son supposed to integrate into this community when we are forced to live like this and he cannot participate in the activities his friends enjoy? ”

The current level of asylum seeker support is slightly more than 50% of Jobseekers Allowance at £73.10. As a result of this system, which for many lasts years, asylum seekers often experience destitution as well as poor physical and mental health.  We believe the government should fully meet its international human rights obligations which apply regardless of whether a person is a citizen of the country or not. The same protections and obligations apply, regardless of nationality, citizenship or status.

Liz Griffith, Policy Officer of Law Centre NI says:

The current asylum support system does not provide dignity. Asylum seekers should be able to work and to support themselves and their families.  We believe the current allowance should be increased and pregnant women and new mothers and asylum seekers with disabilities should have access to additional support.”

The review produced by the Home Office allows £23.75 weekly for food (£1 per meal), £1 for toiletries, 92p for healthcare, 92p for household cleaning products, £2.80 for clothing, £4.30 for travel and £3 for communications.

The review used Office of National Statistics (ONS) **data for expenditure on food and toiletries by the lowest 10% among the UK population and own market research for expenditure on clothing and footwear as it deemed ONS figures “excessive.” Allocating £2.80 weekly for clothing, the government decided that “a basic wardrobe of three sets of clothing is sufficient to enable both men and women to be adequately clothed to ensure good health. Most asylum seekers of course already have at least one set of clothing, which provides the first of the three sets of clothing.”

In considering the nutritional needs of children, the government concluded that “children aged under 10 are generally considered to require less calorific (or energy) intake than older groups and in general females of all age groups require less calorific intake than males.”

In contrast, Joseph Rowntree research*** concluded that a single person requires at least £207.13 weekly (including £45.59 for food) to have a minimum standard of living. The definition of minimum acceptable standard of living is based on consultation with the members and is defined as “more than just, food, clothes and shelter. It is about having what you need in order to have the opportunities and choices necessary to participate in society.” 

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For all media enquiries please contact:

Sipho Sibanda, Housign4All on 07510680653 or siphosibanda708@gmail.com

Makhosi Sigabade, Housing4All on 07492817735 or makhosisigabade@gmail.com

Aylisha Hogan, STAR on 07585809059 or ahogan05@qub.ac.uk

Stephanie Green, PPR on 07980571185 or stephanie.green@pprproject.org

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

*Housing for All is a group made up of asylum seekers and supporters campaigning to end asylum seekers destitution and poor housing conditions and facilitated by Participation and the Practice of Rights organisation. For more information: https://www.pprproject.org/

 

STAR is a students campaign group Students Together with Asylum Seekers and Refugees

 

The full reports can be accessed at:

 

**https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/673545/Report_on_review_of_cash_allowance_paid_to_asylum_seekers_-_2017_-_final.._.pdf

***https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/minimum-income-standard-uk-2017