£37 a week. I remember myself calculating our shopping’s cost, so we don’t have to feel embarrassed at the tills. We had already had that experience before…
£37 per week. I remember convincing my children that charity shops sell better quality toys than Debenhams.
£37 per week. I remember myself reassuring my daughter that on one beautiful day, a postman would drop off a life-changing letter that would change our world. She would have a real Barbie doll!
£37 per week. £5.39 a day.
After six years of waiting, we are refugees now. We have all the rights, including access to public benefits – but we are left with our difficult memories.
In a Covid-19 reality, when prices have gone up along with the stress, asylum seekers still need to be ‘grateful’ that they have £5 per day to survive on. Despite the pandemic, they’re still expected to live off less than £40 per week. It does not matter that they are forced to make a choice between food and face masks, between mobile data and cleaning products, between school supplies and bus tickets. It is very ‘understandable’ that, unfortunately, human beings without status should be treated with less humanity in this human rights world. However, our new reality has given us the chance to change the world slightly.
Covid-19 does not discriminate, but £20 can make all the difference for those forced to live in poverty. All doors are closed for asylum seekers: they cannot work, support their families and at the same time, they have no access to the public benefits. They are trapped. If it is necessary to increase income for people with ‘legal status’ in the UK, why is it unnecessary to get an extra £20 for asylum seekers? Do they have different needs?
Absolutely not. I am the same person I was yesterday while seeking asylum – feeling stressed, trying to forget my past and not being able to ignore other asylum seekers suffering around me.
Refugee Action’s campaign on increasing support for asylum seekers does not focus on providing extra comfort for asylum seekers. It is a humane approach to human beings. It is caring about people and their basic needs, not even mentioning their extremely difficult past experiences.
Covid-19 has made the world think more. We have a chance to improve the world, to make the right choice of putting human beings above political games.
I am a refugee, but I was an asylum seeker yesterday and I know what it feels like. I am still overcoming the trauma of being an asylum seeker; poor, vulnerable and easily bullied.
Asylum seekers and refugees consider the UK to be their home. We try our best to contribute to the country we have applied for international protection in. However, we need dignity and the basic conditions necessary to do so.
By increasing support, we will have less destitute, vulnerable, and disempowered people, and a more self-confident community who can integrate and contribute to British society.