Home Office faces legal challenge over asylum seeker payments during Covid – Comment

22 December 2020

The Home Office is still failing to provide thousands of asylum seekers in emergency hotel accommodation with basic cash support and essentials more than a month after being instructed by the high court to fulfil their legal requirements to do so.

In October, law firm Duncan Lewis successfully challenged the government’s failure to provide adequate asylum support in the high court.

Robina Qureshi, Director of Positive Action in Housing, said:

Positive Action in Housing’s clients, many of whom are asylum seekers living in hotels, have never received this back payment. They have not even been told anything about their rights by the Home Office or Mears Group – which is pretty much the standard. We believe people’s rights are being abused because they are less likely to know their rights in order to claim what is rightfully theirs. Many people know now because we have asked them if they have been advised about this hotel back payment. We also want to know what the rules are concerning those asylum seekers who were once in hotels with no money and then moved to private dwellings. Are they not entitled too? Because they should be. At the end of the day, the amount of money is a pittance yet still the Home Office has not acted according to the law. “It should not be forgotten that earlier this year, a suicidal asylum seeker, a young Syrian gentleman by the name of Adnan Walid Elbi, was forcibly moved from a private dwelling into a hotel at the height of the pandemic in March 2020. A few weeks later, he was found dead in Room 50 of the Mclays hotel, Glasgow after begging to be seen because of his mental health. Friends say he was highly stressed about lack of money and struggling with the diet he was fed by the hotel and needed to cook for himself. But without money or cooking facilities this was impossible. His own mother, who remains in Syria, is bereft and commented that her son was worse off here in the U.K. than she is in Syria. There are people who have been in this situation for ten months or longer, with no money whatsoever to buy essential such as bus passes, mobile phone top ups or snacks. The Home Office’s failure to inform asylum seekers of their rights or to pay up is only further compounding the misery, isolation and hardship of people forced to live in temporary accommodation while they await a decision on their asylum claim.”

The Home Office says it “acted quickly and decisively earlier this year to look after asylum seekers’ wellbeing during the pandemic”.

A spokesperson said: “Following the decision to increase the weekly cash allowance for those in full board accommodation, we are upgrading the system we use to provide for card payments. In the meantime, we have agreed with accommodation providers that they make cash payments. Needs related to food and toiletries will continue to be met by the accommodation provider under existing contractual arrangements.”

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