23 February 2015
For most people, putting aside and saving money for pricier items is all part of the weekly budget. But this wasn’t possible for many asylum seekers – until now.
From Monday 2 March, asylum seekers on the Azure card can carry over any weekly money they do not spend. Previously, the amount was capped at £5.
This means people can save up for vital, pricier purchases, such as cooking equipment or shoes.
The policy change will make a huge difference to the asylum seekers we help – many of whom are distressed and destitute.
Life on £35 a week
These asylum seekers have been refused refugee status and are willing to – but cannot – return home yet. For instance, there may currently be no safe route back.
They have no choice but to wait in the UK, where they are not allowed to work and have no access to physical cash. They must use the Azure card to survive – a payment card preloaded with £35.39, for a single adult, each week.
Our report, in July 2014, revealed a number of problems with the card – and not just the carryover limit.
Improving the card
Following the evidence in our report, the House of Lords debated the Azure card last November.
The government minister, Baroness Williams of Trafford, then agreed to a number of changes – but no timelines were set.
Following today’s change to the rollover limit, the Home Office has announced that it will also shortly update – and improve – their online information about using the card.
Although the British Red Cross would still like MPs to scrap the Azure card altogether, we are thrilled with recent developments.
Jonathan Ellis, from the Red Cross, said: “We have been keen to join with our partners in the Still Human Still Here campaign coalition to call for changes in the section 4 support for asylum seekers, which causes such unnecessary suffering.
“We welcome these recent changes but will continue to make the case to abolish this payment card and reintroduce cash support.”
This news story was updated on 3 March.