‘Thousands’ of asylum seekers go hungry after Home Office cash card problems, say campaigners

Thousands of asylum seekers have gone hungry for over a week, according to charities and rights groups, who say there are problems with Home Office-provided cash cards.

The Aspen cards, normally given to asylum seekers, are loaded with £39.63 per week to help pay for things such as food, clothing and toiletries.

The Home Office this week changed the way the cards are issued and many people have reported not receiving them, or having wrong names on them.

Others say the new cards do not have money on when activated.

Sky News spoke to a man called Walter, who has fled gang violence in Central America. As an asylum seeker, he is not allowed to work while his claim is being considered.

Walter and his wife have an eight-month-old son.

"Over the last six days, we’ve just tried to keep the food we got from charities, especially vegetables, for the baby," he said.

"My wife and I, as adults, we know that we can support ourselves a bit more, the baby is different. But now that we have no food, it’s really critical.

"I called charities and they said ‘Look, my friend, I’m not able to help you. We’re receiving masses of calls reporting the same situation’."

Walter’s family were relocated at the start of the month to a new home 200 miles away.

He suspects his new card may have been sent to the old address.

"We do not have any friends here, we are just new to the city. We do not have any charity or anything," Walter said.

"It’s really stressful, when I look at my baby and see that he’s hungry, I get really worried. I don’t know what else I can do."

Sky News visited a housing complex in Surrey where there are reports that 30 families living there are yet to receive cards.

One woman described her desperation.

"I thought of selling some of our clothes since I’m not allowed to work. I thought of selling our clothes to get help until the cards arrive. But even that solution would take time," she told Sky News.

Clare Moseley, chief executive of the charity Care4Calais, said: "The significance of the problem is that they only get £39.63 to live on a week and that is such a tiny amount, and when you’re on such a low amount you’re not making any savings. It’s real hand-to-mouth.

"Even being without it for a couple of days is a problem, being without it for a week is a disaster.

"People don’t have food, we are signposting people to food banks, we’re getting phone calls from people who haven’t eaten," she said.

The Home Office says it is assisting "everyone affected," and that it has shared an emergency cash escalation inbox with partners from the charity sector.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "A new service to provide asylum seekers with financial support went live on Monday and we are assisting everyone affected to ensure they get access to their payments swiftly.

"We provided clear advice to asylum seekers that they must activate their new cards prior to the service going live and the vast majority of individuals have done so.

"Those who have issues or are unsure how they can activate their cards are able to contact the 24/7 Migrant Help helpline. Accommodation Providers can facilitate emergency cash payments in the meantime."

But both Walter and the woman in Surrey say the helpline has not been able to assist.

"I tried to call Migrant Help so many times but the call is always failing and that is the only authority we can communicate with. They are the link between us and the Home Office. If it wasn’t for the charity West London Welcome, I can’t imagine what would have happened," she told Sky News.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap