Asylum: Finance

Home Office written question – answered on 7th September 2020.

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Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps she is taking to (a) provide refugees and asylum seekers with (i) additional financial support and (ii) support with their travel during the covid-19 outbreak and (b) support social distancing within asylum seeker accommodation.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Refugees are free to take employment and are eligible to apply for the same welfare benefits as British Citizens and other permanent residents of the UK. They do not therefore receive assistance from the Home Office.

Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with free accommodation, with utilities and council tax paid for, as well as free access to the NHS and free access to education for their children. Unless they are in full-board accommodation, they also receive a cash allowances to cover their other essential living needs.

The level of the cash allowance was reviewed earlier in the year, taking account of Covid-19 factors and evidence about a range of living costs, including travel. As a result of that work, the allowance was raised to £39.60 per week from £37.75 per week with effect from 15 June, an increase of around 5%. The increase was significantly higher than the general rate of inflation, which Office for National Statistics data shows was only 0.5% in the 12 months period to May.

Accommodation providers have worked closely with Public Health officials to ensure that all supported asylum seekers receive guidance on social distancing, which is in line with the advice provided to the general public.

The UK has a generous record in supporting asylum seekers. Last year, we made around 20,000 grants of asylum or protection (one of the higher figures in Europe), as well as offered protection to 3,000 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children – the highest number of any country in Europe. In addition, we have directly resettled around 20,000 people from the most dangerous areas of the world (especially Syrians) in the UK over the last 5 years. Finally, we spend around £14 billion per year in Overseas Aid, helping millions of people around the world. This is the highest amount of any country in Europe and we are the only G7 country to meet the 0.7% of GNI Overseas Aid target.

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