25 July 2014
A new report by the British Red Cross exposes the failings of the Azure payment card – and calls for asylum seekers to receive this support in cash.
‘The Azure payment card’ report uses questionnaires and in-depth interviews to explore how well the card works – from the viewpoint of asylum seekers and the organisations that support them.
A cashless system
The Azure card is given to refused asylum seekers who are destitute and cannot return home, for reasons beyond their control. They can legally stay in the UK, but are not allowed to work.
The government gives them temporary accommodation, on a no-choice basis, and the Azure card. The card is pre-loaded with £35.39 a week for single asylum seekers.
The report finds that those who live off the card often struggle to meet their basic needs. Some interviewees we spoke to said they were unable to eat three meals a day.
This is sometimes due to failures and restrictions with the system, which can leave people without financial support for days.
Using the card can also cause stigma and embarrassment at the checkout.
One interviewee told us: “It’s a kind of jail… and your dignity is literally taken away from you because of a simple card.”
Cash, not cards
Jonathan Ellis, head of policy, research and advocacy at the Red Cross, said: “With strong support from Red Cross offices and our partners across the UK, we feel that we have produced a compelling report which calls for the abolition of the Azure payment card.
“This card is causing a humanitarian crisis among some asylum seekers. It is time for change.
“We urge the government to scrap this restrictive card that causes so much unnecessary suffering and re-introduce cash support.”