Teather takes on asylum seeker support cuts

Cuts to support for asylum seekers should be scrutinised by parliament, former Liberal Democrat minister has urged MPs.

Sarah Teather sought to change the law in a Commons speech proposing an increase in the amounts paid to those seeking asylum in the UK.

Her amendment to the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 would give parliament the chance to assess the home secretary's decisions on asylum support.

Changes to mainstream benefits have to be confirmed by the work and pensions secretary before the Commons, but the Home Office can leave them unchanged – meaning asylum support falls behind inflation.

"It is not about special rules for one group of people," she told MPs, urging "decency, common sense and accountability and above all humanity".

Teather secured cross-party support for her bill, including one Conservative MP.

"These are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, yet while the cost of living increases, they are forced to live on less and less," she told politics.co.uk before the debate.

"As a country, we can be proud of our history providing support and shelter to those fleeing persecution and war. But current practices and systems are putting our reputation at risk."

Asylum seekers whose applications are refused currently receive an 'azure card', which is topped up each week, which allows them to pay for items restricted to certain shops like mainstream supermarkets.

Teather's reforms would scrap the cashless support system and replace it with cash-based support.

"This card can only be used at a handful of selected stores, forcing some families to travel long distances to shop for essential items and preventing recipients from finding the best deals," she explained.

"And as only a very small amount of unspent money can be carried over at the end of the week, it is practically impossible to save for items such as a winter coat."

The government did not offer any indication it would support Teather's bill.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Asylum seekers who need support are provided with free accommodation, utilities bills paid and a weekly cash allowance to cover their cost of living while they await a decision on their asylum cases.

“Failed asylum seekers have no right to remain in the UK and no need for protection. They have a duty to return home, and any support provided is temporary while individuals make those arrangements. This support is paid via an Azure Card, which can be used in over 8,000 shops to cover essential living needs.”