The government believes asylum seekers do not deserve to live fulfilled lives
July 31, 2009 by Webmaster
In 1999 Ken Livingstone said: “You can judge politicians by how they treat refugees: they do to them what they would like to do to everyone else if they could get away with it.”
If that is the case then there is concern for us all.
The Government announced yesterday that they are cutting the benefits given to asylum seekers from £42 to £35 a week. They claim that £35 a week is sufficient to enable asylum seekers to meet their basic needs in the UK, given that their housing and heating costs are also met.
This is just not the case. £5 a day is not sufficient money for an adult in this country to feed and clothe themselves, travel and buy necessary medicines. It’s less than many of us will spend on our lunchtime sandwiches. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work by law, making this the only income they have and to take this away from people fleeing persecution in their home countries is, frankly, shameful.
Somewhat ironically, on the same day a government working party announced that it was recommending that the amount of money pensioners living in residential care (where not just housing and fuel costs, but also food is already paid for) should see a rise in the amount of money that they are left with from their benefits rise from £21 a week to £40 a week. The reason? To recognise that £21 a week is “insufficient to enable them to live fulfilled lives”.
This is, of course, to be welcomed, although pensioner poverty has fallen by a third since 1997 the level remains shamefully high and any measure to put more money in pensioners’ pockets is a step in the right direction. However, it would be nice to see some joined up thinking from the government and recognition that asylum seekers are entitled to the same dignity as anyone else in our society.
Since I have worked for Oxfam I have met many asylum seekers, many of whom tell truly harrowing stories of the persecution they have escaped. Despite not being allowed to work, many I have met do voluntary work to put something back into the country that has taken them in. What makes this measure all the more shameful is that it clearly has nothing to do with cost cutting as the government claimed. With 25,670 applications for asylum in 2008 the saving will be minimal but the suffering for the people it effects will be massive.