Cost of Living: Asylum seekers driven to destitution – charity

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Rising prices have driven some asylum seekers to destitution, a charity has warned.

The Welsh Refugee Council (WRC) has called for asylum seekers to be allowed to work in order to increase their income.

It said it was having to support more people with its hardship fund, as well as clothes and food donations.

The Home Office said it provided accommodation and a weekly allowance to support asylum seekers.

People seeking asylum are given somewhere to live, and a weekly allowance of £45 to cover food, essential items and travel.

In Wales, refugees are given free travel on public transport.

The WRC provides help for asylum seekers in accessing support, including guidance on applying for asylum, and finding legal representation, as well as more practical help in building their lives in Wales, after escaping conflict zones, such as Ukraine, or human rights abuses in north Africa.

Harriet Protheroe-Soltani, from the WRC, said the allowance provided by the UK government should be supplemented, by allowing asylum seekers to work as they wait to discover the outcome of their claim.

Frezgi Meles lost two brothers in the conflict in Tigray

“Asylum seekers aren’t allowed to work in the UK, so that is a very limited pool of money that they’ve got to survive off, and they can’t really expand that pool of money,” she said.

“From that £45, asylum seekers are expected to spend money on things like transport, food, essential toiletries, all of the day to say costs.

“We’ve people from our play project who come in, they are mothers, and they can’t afford to get their children uniforms,” she said.

UK Border Controls sign

Many asylum seekers have fled to the UK after conflicts in their home countries, or human rights abuses

Ms Protheroe-Soltani added it was very difficult, with people falling into destitution and not surviving.

Frezgi Meles, fled war in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, and came to Cardiff.

“There is a genocide in Tigray, a lot of people are killed, women are raped, a lot of infrastructure is getting destroyed,” he said.

“We cannot live in our country because of the dictators.”

Fighting in the region led to the destruction of homes, school and hospitals.

Human Rights Watch has estimated more than two million people in Tigray have been forced to leave their homes.

Now living in Cardiff, the 38-year-old volunteers for the Red Cross and the Welsh Refugee Council and said he has found it difficult to afford the basics on his £45 allowance, and said he would rather work.

“It would be good if we could get work permits, so that we could get jobs.”

‘Broken asylum system’

Ms Protheroe-Soltani said asylum seekers were in a “no man’s land between having this really small amount of money, and not being able to work”.

She added a lot of asylum seekers would “love to work”.

“Remember the HGV drivers crisis? There were many of our clients that would’ve been willing and able to go and fill that shortage, but they’re unable to, so they’re in a really difficult position,” she said.

The Home Office said: “The Nationality and Borders Act will fix the broken asylum system, by processing application more quickly, and focusing on those genuinely fleeing persecution.

“For asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute, we provide accommodation, and a weekly allowance for food, clothing, transport and sundries.

“The Home Office ensures all spending is carefully scrutinised to make sure that every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the most effective way, and we review the allowance rate annually.”

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