The government’s plan to leave migrant children destitute

Support levels for asylum-seekers are lower in the UK than in almost all western European countries - and the government plans to make things tougher


This weekend the press set out a Home Office proposal to cut support for asylum-seekers whose applications have been rejected by the Home Office. The government cited this as a way of making the UK less attractive to would-be migrants at Calais.

While ministers aimed to sound tough, the mooted policy change is not based on evidence and will do little to reduce numbers.

At present, asylum applicants are barred from working. Instead, they have the option of applying to the Home Office for cash support, or cash support and accommodation. Their housing is commissioned by the Home Office and is almost always provided out of London and the south east.

A single person gets £36.95 cash support every week and a child under 16 receives £52.96, although on 10 August everyone’s payment will be reduced to £36.95. That works out at £5.28 a day for everything apart from gas, electricity and water. In contrast, a single person on Job Seekers Allowance gets £73.10 per week (£10.44 per day), although they do not have their utilities paid for them.

Support levels for asylum-seekers are lower in the UK than in almost all western European countries. In France, for example, asylum-seekers receive the equivalent of £6.70 per day to cover food and clothing, in Denmark they receive £18.80.

Some 30,476 asylum-seekers were being supported by the UK government as of 31 March 2015. They receive this cash support until any appeal is exhausted. After this, it is hoped that asylum-seekers will leave the UK voluntarily, or else face removal. However this does not always happen, even if asylum-seekers are willing to return.

It can be costly or difficult to return individuals to some countries and travel documents need to be obtained. Some countries have no functioning governments, some have governments who refuse to co-operate with returning their citizens. At times, too, the UK government has suspended returns to particular countries (for example, Zimbabwe) while making no attempt to resolve the cases of asylum-seekers who application has failed.

As a result, some individuals and families remain in limbo for years: not legally entitled to remain in the UK but not able to leave either. Those facing this situation are entitled to what is known as Section 4 support, first introduced under the terms of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Those supported this way have to live in designated accommodation and receive no cash, instead getting £35.39 per week loaded on to an ‘Azure’ payment card, which can only be used in designated outlets.

Some 4,941 people were supported this way during the first quarter of 2015. The government proposes to scrap this, citing it as a pull factor, encouraging migration to the UK and contributing to the situation in Calais.

Study after study has dismissed benefits as a pull factor for refugees and for those whose motives for migration are largely economic. The residents of the Calais camps want to come to the UK because it is safe and because it is possible to find work here. Having family and friends in the UK is also an attraction, as is the English language, as many of them have been educated in this medium.

What is clear is that people do not risk their lives for a pre-payment card that gives them just over £5 per day.

Worst of all, if the government’s latest proposals are implemented they will leave a small number of children and adults totally destitute. Meanwhile they will do nothing to reduce the numbers of refugees and migrants living in Calais.

These tough-sounding policy changes represent a further over-promising on immigration control that simply cannot deliver results. As such they risk further reducing public trust in politicians to manage migration.

This weekend’s proposals from the government are an example of the worst type of migration politics.

Jill Rutter is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward and has just published Moving up and getting on (Policy Press) a book that looks at migrant integration

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12 Responses to “The government’s plan to leave migrant children destitute”

  1. I'm very cross about this.

    This blog post is typical of none-thinking. All it says is what’s wrong with current policy updates; and some may not agree that they’re entirely wrong, and offers no solutions at all regarding what we might do about the problem. What we cannot do is simply let people in because they want in.

  2. /O43 |_|K19!!

    Jill Rutter regurgitates: “Support levels for asylum-seekers are lower in the UK than in almost all western European countries”.

    In which case why are they trying to get OUT of western Europe and IN to the UK?

  3. /O43 |_|K19!!

    The left want to let them in and give them free money in exchange for ideological support.

  4. Cole

    Ah yes, that crazy right wing paranoid theory.

  5. Cole

    If you actually read the article, that question is answered.

  6. mikesey

    This seems to be a great idea to me.
    Immigrants are experts at using moral blackmail to get what they want.
    Our country uses Christian principles in its governance; helping the less fortunate, etc.
    That is taken advantage of, and is exploited to the full, so much so, that we are a soft touch.
    We are not a commie or fascist state, but we should be harder on those who exploit us, that includes their children.
    Perhaps then, they shall not be so keen to take us for suckers and mugs.

  7. Norfolk29

    The rest of Europe decided to share out the numbers of refugees months ago. Cameron refused to accept any.

  8. JoeDM

    They are their parents responsibility not ours.

  9. Mike Stallard

    I teach several of these migrant children. What is noticeable is their new bikes, their constant changes of clothes and their mobile phones with which they arrive. They are a lot better off, actually, than the children in my street. These unaccompanied “minors” who arrive are treated like foster children and they are being very, very well provided for by the state.
    Remember the 500,000 Poles who arrived on Labour’s watch? Now we are getting quite a lot of lorry people here too under the Conservatives. I wonder when someone is going to own up that the whole thing is right out of the government’s control and right under the control of the EU Parliament which alone can discuss and amend the UN resolutions and the international laws which govern all this nonsense?

  10. Mike Stallard

    The ones I meet are here because they are young and they are looking for adventure. It is a sort of gap year experience, I think. They are out to see the world on the biggest adventure of their lives. Because they are poor and very different from us the gap year takes a different form, but I think the motivation is very much the same.

  11. Mike Stallard

    500,000 Poles under Tony Blair.
    Now loads more people under the Conservatives. Romanians? Hyde Park?

    It is not the Tories that are to blame.
    It is not Mr Blair who is to blame.
    It is not even Jeremy Corbin.

    It is the EU which alone has the power to change the 1951 asylum laws and to protect the EU borders and discuss the freedom of internal movement. Credit where credit is due…


    If we get out of Europe then no problem.

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