03 January 2023, The Tablet

Asylum seekers face 'bleak' cost of living crisis

Charities have called for an end to the ban on asylum seekers finding work while their applications are being processed.

Asylum seekers face 'bleak' cost of living crisis

Homeless man in the street with a note: “God Bless Asylum Seekers”.
PjrTravel / Alamy

Asylum seekers are among those facing a bleak financial situation as prices increase, according to church charities.

Generally given less than £6 a day to live on, they are also unable to work and earn additional income while their applications are being processed.

Mauricio Silva, a lay worker with Columban missionaries who is Coordinator of Fatima House in Birmingham, a partnership project serving female asylum seekers, told The Tablet this week that at Fatima House, “we increased the amount of the weekly allowance we distribute from our destitution fund and are redoubling efforts to appeal for donations of toiletries and basic food, which can help them save a little from their allowance.” 

He was thankful that, “local parishes, groups and individuals are always ready to help us.” And he reflected that, “among refugee friends, we have noticed that many are struggling to make ends meet and having to make difficult decisions between feeding their families and paying bills.”

He knew of some living on the verge of destitution, “running into debts and arrears with rental, housing, council tax and energy bills”. 

Caritas Shrewsbury tweeted over Christmas that it “supports refugee groups tackling the cost of living crisis”, being particularly “proud and privileged this year to work with Afghan refugees living in hotels in Manchester when it has been such a hard time for so many.”

It added that, “working together across the voluntary, public and private sectors we’ve made a difference.”

Caritas Shrewsbury also called on supporters to make a Christmas pledge to help bring families together, saying: “We're thinking of the refugee children separated from their mums and dads because of the UK's unfair family reunion rules.”

On the Feast of the Holy Family, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) urged prayer for refugee families where children have been separated from parents and suggested regifting any unwanted presents.

JRS has thanked donors to its Advent Appeal 2022, which boosted its Hardship Fund to respond to refugees with immediate practical needs. It has also called for a lifting of the ban on people seeking asylum from working, saying this “forces families into poverty and pushes people towards exploitative labour”.

The JRS “At Home” scheme is being promoted, which puts together hosts with refugees finding it hard to access accommodation.

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