Charities have called for asylum seekers to be given more money after it emerged refugees are being advised to spend £27 a week on food, 35p on medicines and 69p on toiletries.
The spending guidance suggests how their £40 weekly payments can be stretched as inflation pushes up prices and leaves some families struggling to put food on the table.
Asylum seekers are not entitled to work while their claims are being processed, which can take years. One family asked for an exceptional extra payment to cover specialist food for their child who has a health condition but they were denied with the Home Office case worker saying the weekly payment should be enough to “save for a known eventuality”.
They were given an itemised breakdown which showed just £27 was expected to be allocated for food, under £5 for travel, around £3 for clothing, 69p for toiletries and 35p for medicines.
The child’s dad, who is from the Middle East and who has asked not to be named, said: “I was shocked when I was denied. Now it is even harder to buy what we need because prices are rising.
“There are days when my wife and I don’t eat so that we can feed our children. I sometimes have to ask friends for food.
“The government has to take responsibility and increase the benefit we get or allow us to work so that we can survive. I have already waited more than 18 months for a decision on my application and I can’t wait any longer.”
Another parent from south Asia, who also asked to remain anonymous, said: “I’m struggling to feed my family. The cost of food has gone up so much since I came here in 2019. I have been put on medication by my GP because I’m so stressed. I am a graduate and I’d like to contribute to this country but they won’t allow me to work.”
One young woman from Nigeria added: “Some days I don’t eat anything. I am starving.”
Esther Muchena, services manager at the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “We urgently need to see a meaningful increase to asylum support to £84.12 a week, which allows people to live in dignity and fully participate in their new communities.”
Pinar Aksu, Maryhill Integration Network human rights and advocacy coordinator, said all of the asylum seekers supported by the charity were struggling.
She added: “If somebody claims asylum it can take up to six months to get an acknowledgement and a year before there’s a decision. Some people have been waiting for two years. They’re stuck in limbo.”
The UK Government said asylum seekers could take jobs from a list recognised by the UK immigration authority as having staff shortages if their claim had taken more than a year and added: “Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with support whilst we consider their claim.”
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