A new research report published by the British Red Cross has confirmed that the current system of supporting some asylum seekers is leaving them hungry and putting their health at risk.
Section 4 support is given to refused asylum seekers who are destitute and are either awaiting a further decision on their claim, or can’t immediately return to their country of origin due to circumstances beyond their control. At the end of 2013, 4, 831 asylum seekers and their dependants where receiving support Section 4 support.
People receiving Section 4 support are provided with accommodation, but have no say in where they live, and they also received £35 a week paid via a card, known as the Azure card.
The Azure card is only accepted by a few retailers and can only buy food, essential toiletries, clothing and credit for mobile phones.
Crucially, those receiving Section 4 support have no access to cash. This means people are unable to shop around to get best value for money, nor are they able to get the bus to bigger shops which may be far away as the Azure card does not cover travel costs.
The British Red Cross’ report is made up of the testimonies of refused asylum seekers and surveyed organisations that work with them.
- the Azure card prevented refused asylum seekers from meeting their basic living needs, with 85% of organisations surveyed saying it left their clients hungry
- 92% of the organisations surveyed said their clients on section 4 were unable to maintain good health
- 72% of respondents said their clients had their card refused in shops in the previous six months
- 85% of respondents reported that their clients’ cards have not worked at some point during the last six months
- 70% of those surveyed said their clients have experienced poor treatment from shop staff and acknowledged their clients’ feelings of embarrassment (88%) and anxiety (89%) when using the card
- The overwhelming majority of respondents (93%) ultimately said they believed that the Azure card system fails to support refused asylum seekers.
The report recommends Section 4 support should be abolished and replaced with a system which allows refused asylum seekers access to cash; both of which the Refugee Council has been calling for a number of years.
The report concludes:
‘The Azure card and Section 4 support does not allow refused asylum seekers to meet their basic needs and live with dignity. It creates unnecessary suffering for people who are already in desperate situations.’
Refugee Council Head of Advocacy Dr. Lisa Doyle said: “This report provides further proof of what the Refugee Council has sadly been saying for years; that the system is broken, is making people hungry and is putting their health at risk.
“It’s high time the nightmare system of Section 4 was abolished and replaced with a humane system that not only enables people to survive, but to do so in dignity.”
Read the full report.