The Real Deal for Asylum Seekers

In response to a previous article on complaining to the media, we were asked to provide ammunition in the form of exactly what asylum seekers do get whilst waiting for a decision. there are so many incidences of tabloids reporting asylum seekers of living in the lap of luxury and costing a huge amount to accommodate, it is necessary to point out the facts.

Ammunition for complainers, if you fancy.

Great question Christopher, here’s the reality of an asylum seeker’s plight in the UK:

Cash entitlements for asylum seekers

A married couple are entitled to £72.52 per week, compared with the Job Seekers Allowance of £105.95. A single parent will get £43.94 (aged 18+) whereas the JSA pays £67.50. A 16-18 year old will get £39.80, a job seeker of that age is entitled to £53.45. Overall an asylum seeker will get approximately 60 – 75% of what a job seeker is entitled to. The government claims a jobseeker will typically receive the amount they need to live on – or less.

Asylum seekers who have had their claims denied, are destitute and are, for example making moves to return to their country of origin are given an ‘Azure Card’ which works similarly to an oyster card on London transport. An Azure Card has a weekly amount of £35.39 charged on the card, can only be used for essential items and only £5 can be carried over from one week to the next. The cards can only be used in a very limited number of outlets.


Housing for asylums seekers is provided when the asylum seeker is destitute (homeless and unable to afford to eat). There is no choice of where the accommodation will be provided. According to the UKBA website, housing is usually only available in the north west, north east, midlands,Wales and Scotland. An asylum seeker does not receive Housing Benefit or any other money to pay rent with. Experience shows that much of the housing provided for asylum seekers is in inaccessible locations, in very poor condition and would be incredibly difficult to rent on the market.


Asylum Seekers are not allowed to work in the UK. After waiting for a decision for one year, they may ask for permission to work. Permission will not be granted to become self employed and there is a list of “shortage occupations” administered by UKBA, an asylum seeker with permission to work is limited to these occupations should s/he find a job.


UKBA report that 59% of claims are dealt with within 30 days of the claim first being made. However, there are currently 28,000 cases that have been moved to the Case Audit and Assurance Unit (CAAU), there is no published timeframe for such cases.

So, when you read of asylum seekers living the life of Riley in the lap of luxury, in the south of England several alarms bells should ring, you should reach for your computer and start a complaint.

And finally… Another Word against Bogus

We cannot stress this too much, but there is no such thing as a bogus asylum seeker. It is a universal right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  for anyone to seek  asylum. Furthermore countries that have ratified the United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights – that includes the UK –are not permitted to return asylum seekers to countries in which they are at risk of persecution or torture.

The decision making in this field by the Home Office is very poor. About 28% of asylum appeals were overturned by the courts in 2009, and it remains notoriously difficult to gain refugee status in the UK.

Thanks for help in writing this article are due to Asylum Aid and the Refugee Council, their websites and workers are goldmines of info. Quite a bit was gleaned from the UKBA site as well.

About jcwi

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is a key campaigning voice in the field of immigration, asylum and nationality law and policy. It is completely independent from government funding, remaining entirely free from government influence. View all posts by jcwi

7 responses to “The Real Deal for Asylum Seekers

  • BM

    One thing to note about housing is utility bills are paid by the housing provider to the utility company directly, and as the housing provider receives a set amount per person from UKBA it doesn’t cost UKBA any more money if the utility bills are extremely high, just the housing provider.

  • Joan Weir

    Cause for investigation into UKBA incompetence, lack of transparency and breach of human rights, including the role of CAAU.

    I have been trying to help an asylum seeker (and torture survivor) who has been waiting for nearly 8 years for a resolution. In spite of action from his solicitor, his MP, my MP, repeated promises from UKBA for resolution within 3 months since mid-2010, incorrect and apparently threating letters and even two apologies from UKBA for delays he is still waiting and his case has now moved to CAAU.

    He endured two deportation attempts before his case was accepted for reconsideration in 2005. I fear for his mental heath and he describes this whole process as another form of torture. You say that 28,000 cases have now been moved to CAAU – many of these will be lost but there will be others like him who are left in this worse kind of limbo.

    Individual legal action will now have to be brought against the UKBA but I call on JCWI to push for investigation to UKBA.

    Joan Weir

  • NotAProphet

    How does this compare to how much asylum seekers get elsewhere in Europe?

  • Equality Updates 15th September 2011 | Glasgow Equality Forum

    […] The Real Deal For Asylum Seekers (15/09/11): In response to a previous article on complaining to the media, we were asked to provide ammunition in the form of exactly what asylum seekers do get whilst waiting for a decision. […]

  • CuriousObserver

    So where are the ones that are wandering about in the North West getting the money from for their Blackberrys, and their leather jackets and designer trainers? Just asking….

  • jcwi

    Maybe they’re in some journalist’s morbid imagination, who knows?

  • Kate

    thank you for an informative piece! I get very frustrated with the opinion of many (and it’s growing, the deeper into recession we get) that asylum seekers have an easy ride. For most just getting here is a huge endeavour and the treatment that they receive, from the state and the public, makes me very sad. I have an Iraqi friend who has lived here for 14 years. He is not allowed to work, he is not entitled to benefits. He signs on monthly but can not get granted leave to remain. The whole system is totally messed up. I don’t see that i have more right to food and shelter than the rest of the world just because I, by chance, happened to be born here. But sadly I seem to be in the minority, and the press just fuel the public’s misguided anger with stories of asyslum seekers cheating the benefit system and raking in the millions. Rant over, thanks again 🙂 x

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