“We deserve a life we can LIVE, not just exist”: Asylum seekers in Belfast demand dignity


In this guest post, Kasia Garbal of Housing4All writes how activists braved the elements as they gathered at Belfast’s City Hall on Monday to express their indignation at the paltry 80p a week increase in asylum support.

The “Demand Dignity – Demand Equality” protest was organised by Housing4All and supported by a student organisation, STAR. Housing for All is a group of asylum seekers and supporters campaigning to end asylum seekers destitution and poor housing conditions.

From 5th February 2018 the asylum seeker weekly allowance has been increased from £36.95 to £37.75, and according to the Home Office has been “carefully calculated” to “meet the essential needs of asylum seekers.”

The review allows £23.75 weekly for food (£1 per meal), £1 for toiletries, 92p for healthcare, 92p for household cleaning products, £2.80 for clothing, £4.30 for travel and £3 for communications.

We do not agree these amounts allow asylum seekers to maintain a minimum standard of living, never mind live with dignity.

Sipho Sibanda, an asylum seeker since 2015 and activist with Housing4All said:

“People flee violence and war to be met by a system which is cruel and inhumane. How am I expected to live on £37.75 a week? Where is the dignity in having to constantly rely on food banks, handouts from charities and kindness of others? We deserve a life we can LIVE, not just exist. How is my son supposed to integrate into this community when we are forced to live like this and he cannot participate in the activities his friends enjoy? ”

Other speakers at the rally included Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the NI Human Rights Commission and Aylisha Hogan from Students Together with Asylum Seekers and Refugees. Les Allamby recommended that the support should be increased to ensure that asylum seekers enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights.

All speakers agreed that asylum seekers should be allowed to work and to support themselves and their families, while their claim is being processed. Makhosi Sigabade of Housing 4All said “People can’t survive on £37.75 per week. Give those in the system a decent amount or allow them to work to be self-sufficient”

The current level of asylum seeker support is slightly more than 50% of Jobseekers Allowance at £73.10. We believe the government should fully meet its international human rights obligations and provide the same support to asylum seekers, as the same protections and obligations apply, regardless of nationality, citizenship or status.

For more information on Housing4All’s campaigns click here.


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