Vouchers discrimination must end - Refugee Council
July 19, 2001

Vouchers discrimination must end

Refugee Council release

Oxfam and the Refugee Council call upon everyone opposed to the voucher scheme for asylum seekers to support the latest phase of their campaign, launched today, and demand that the Government urgently scraps the vouchers and replaces them with a more equitable, cash-based system.

As the parliamentary session ends Oxfam and the Refugee Council believe the new Home Office ministers now have an excellent opportunity to carefully examine the impact the voucher scheme is having on asylum seekers.

In a joint statement, Nick Hardwick (Chief Executive, Refugee Council) and Justin Forsyth (Policy Director, Oxfam) say:
“Following the General Election the new Government has been given an excellent opportunity to take a fresh look at the impact of the vouchers on asylum seekers. We hope after careful consideration that they will end this inequitable scheme and allow asylum seekers to use cash like the rest of us.

“Our evidence clearly shows that the vouchers impose extreme hardship, stigma and humiliation on asylum seekers and the scheme as a whole is a bureaucratic and expensive nightmare. We demand that the Government urgently addresses the fundamental problems of the voucher scheme and replaces the vouchers with cash.

“The scheme blatantly discriminates against some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society, subjecting them to hostility and humiliation. It is an unfair system that pushes people further into poverty, condemning them to live on vouchers worth just over 5 a day – around 70% of income support. To add insult to injury, asylum seekers cannot receive change from unspent portions of vouchers. The only fair way to support asylum seekers is to scrap the voucher scheme altogether and introduce a cash based system.”

The next phase of the joint campaign calls on supporters to lobby their MP by completing and sending them a card that outlines the problems asylum seekers currently face living on vouchers.

“We hope all MPs voice their concerns to the Government and call for the abolition of the voucher scheme. We ask everyone who wants to see an end to this abhorrent system to send our card to their MP.

“The UK has a moral and ethical obligation to adhere to the 1951 Refugee Convention. People who have fled violence and persecution in their native country deserve a swift, thorough investigation of their case and a system that supports rather than stigmatises them at a time when they are most vulnerable.”

ENDS

For further information please contact Emma Stone or Lysbeth Holdoway at the Oxfam Media Unit on 01865 312498/312484 or Jean Candler or Nasreen Memon at the Refugee Council Press Office on 0207 820 3057/3044.

Note to editors:
1. For key findings from 50 organisations working with asylum seekers and refugees see the Token Gestures report, www.oxfam.org.uk/policy/papers/vouchers/intro.htm

External links:

Oxfam – www.oxfam.org.uk

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