Posted: 04 March 2013

Asylum support inquiry report instigates parliamentary pressure for change

A parliamentary debate led by Sarah Teather MP provided a good opportunity to put findings and recommendations of the asylum support inquiry report directly to Mark Harper, immigration minister, and enable him to set out the government's position on the issues raised in the report.

During the debate MPs from across the political spectrum highlighted a range of issues from the inquiry report including: 

  • strong representations on the abolition of Section 4
  • calls to increase asylum support rates and provide equal support for 16 and 17 year olds
  • the unjust exclusion of families with disabilities from disability benefits 

MPs made various suggestions about how to improve the asylum support system. For example, the government could actually save money by allowing asylum seekers to work and support themselves. 

Setting out Labour’s position on asylum support

Chris Bryant, the shadow immigration minister, said: 'A respect for asylum and a desire to protect refugees are essential parts of our British decency.' His speech referenced the UK’s respect for the rule of law and its history of providing freedom and liberty.

In response to the inquiry report, Bryant said: 'I am absolutely certain that the vast majority of the British people would be scandalised, upset and shocked by many of the stories told and much of the evidence presented.'

Bryant echoed the inquiry's findings, saying there was little evidence to suggest that asylum seekers choose a country based on its benefits system or whether they might be able to work; instead, the number of asylum seekers increases when the amount of danger in the world increases. With regards to dispersal policy he added that 'multiple removals are a waste of time, money and energy for the organisations involved, leaving aside the effect on families, and particularly on children who have to change school.'

Improving the transition from asylum support to mainstream benefits

Mark Harper, immigration minister, said that the inquiry’s report will 'certainly go into the government’s review specifically on asylum support rates.'

In response to evidence setting out that asylum support has fallen well below the poverty line and left thousands of children destitute, Mark Harper said that 'I accept that it [financial support] is not generous, but I do not think it is ungenerous.'

He explained that the UK Border Agency and the Department for Work and Pensions are working towards improving the transition from asylum support to mainstream benefits for those granted refugee status. In response to calls for greater support for those with additional health needs, he said that he would be happy to look at any cases in which local authorities were not providing the requisite additional support under the National Assistance Act or Children Act.

Pressure builds against ‘inefficient and cruel system’ of asylum support 

MPs highlighted the inadequacies of the inefficient and stigmatising Section 4 cashless payment card, which forces families to shop in designated shops on a budget of £5 per person per day.

Chris Bryant questioned the cost-effectiveness of Azure card Section 4 support. He said: 'The government must, of course, review the amounts, and it is time that they got on with that this year... If it is genuinely more expensive to provide than the savings it brings, that is obviously to cut off one's nose to spite one's face.'

Mark Durkan MP described Section 4 support as 'an inefficient as well as a cruel system.' Referring to comments from Ed Timpson, Children’s Minister, in the Commons second reading of the children and families bill that every child should have the same chances in life, he highlighted that destitution, 'creates many degrees and levels of risk for children, which we should, of course, be at pains to prevent.'

No more Section 4

An inquiry on asylum has been launched by the Home Affairs Select Committee, chaired by the Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP. The Committee will look at the prevalence of destitution amongst asylum applicants and refused asylum seekers. It will assess whether the asylum support system, including Section 4 support, is sufficient and effective and suggest possible improvements.  It will also examine the reporting of asylum issues in the media. This is an excellent opportunity to examine the plight of thousands of children whose families are dependent on state support, forced into severe poverty. 

No more Section 4! As politicians debate how benefit levels compare to the cost of living as part of the welfare benefits up-rating bill, we insist asylum support for children should at the very least be pegged to mainstream benefits.

Please take part in our End Forced Destitution campaign - ask your MP to improve the support for children seeking asylum.

By Nadine Ibbetson - Policy team

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Hi: I read the above news regarding support for an asylum seeker.I myself an asylum seeker for the last one year & the Home Office didn't take any decision on my application. First I didn't apply for support as I was expecting the Home Office will any decision on my application. However after passing six months I applied for an asylum support as the Home Office didn't take any initial decision on my application.I have been living in the UK for the last 9 years & worked as a language teacher in the UK & due work I receiving life threats in home country Pakistan from Taliban & I was compelled to apply for an asylum in the UK.however I was surprised when shifted to the disperse house & spend £5 a day. I was lucky that I had winter stuff for living as in 6 months I bought only one trouser from Oxfom & I used the old stuff which I had bought in past.Really it is not justice with asylum seekers because Gemany paying £7 a day with standard living while where I m living there is toaster for bread & we eating bread without using toaster since feb 2013 & no bin in which we can through garbag.However I m thankful to the UK government which supplied homes to us but please we are human beings like you & due to problems are here.

Syed, thank you for your comment.

I realise that this doesn't help you at the moment but your situation is one of the reasons we're working to ensure asylum-seekers receive greater amounts of support. No one should have to survive on such meagre support. The government knows that this is a problem, and we're doing our best to ensure they act to ensure that you're supported.

I'm afraid we only work with children, young people and families. However, we do work closely with other organisations supporting destitute asylum seeking adults in your situation through the Still Human Still Here coalition. You could contact Sile Reynolds at Refugee Action (

You could also write to the Home Affairs Select Committee (their contact information is below). This parliamentary committee is currently reviewing the asylum system, including how decisions are made and the levels of support that are provided.

You can find details about the committee on the Parliament website:
Their telephone number is 020 7219 3276 and their email address is

Again, thank you for your comment.