Asylum seekers forced to choose between buying food and medicine, charity warns

Asylum seekers are living in poverty amid the coronavirus lockdown, and having to choose between buying food and medicine, a charity has warned.

Campaigners have called on the Government to raise the weekly allowance asylum seekers receive by £20 so they can pay for essentials.

Asylum seekers are prohibited from working while they are waiting for their claim to be considered by the Government and currently receive between £35.39 and £37.75 per person a week and are housed in temporary accommodation if needed.

Pregnant women or mothers with young babies receive an extra payment of between £3 and £5 a week and can apply for a one-off £3000 maternity payment if the child is due in eight weeks or less, or if they have a baby under six weeks old, according to

Freedom from Torture, Amnesty International UK and Migrant Voice are among 60 charities and activists who have launched a campaign and written to the Home Secretary Priti Patel and Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging them to increase the allowance.

Being able to afford food in light of hiked prices during lockdown is making it “almost impossible” for asylum seekers who are “really struggling”, Freedom from Torture said.

A spokeswoman added: “One of our clients is currently struggling to find nappies for her young daughter because people have stockpiled them and she is struggling with the isolation and mental health.

“Toys are too expensive to buy and her daughter is locked in the house with no stimulation.”

The letter to ministers called for an “immediate intervention to ensure that refugees and people seeking asylum can look after themselves and their families during this difficult time”.

Sonya Sceats (pictured), chief executive of Freedom from Torture, said: “The Coronavirus outbreak is affecting all of us, but it is hitting the most vulnerable people in the UK the hardest.

“Every day, people waiting for a decision on their asylum claim, including torture survivors, have to make impossible decisions like choosing between buying food and medicine. These are people already living in poverty.

“No one living in Britain should be faced with these decisions at this time.

“The government has shown that it understands these unprecedented times call for increased support to the most vulnerable. It’s time to offer extra support to people seeking asylum, too.

“The virus does not discriminate, and neither should we.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are reviewing the level of the cash allowance, as we do every year as part of normal business, and we are taking coronavirus factors into consideration.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Freedom From Torture.