More impoverishment for Glasgow Asylum Seekers as Aspen card switch leaves families Without Food or Money

25 May 2021

Positive Action in Housing, a refugee and migrants homelessness charity, is receiving a high volume of reports of impoverishment from asylum seekers in Glasgow and elsewhere across the U.K.

Complaints have flooded in since Monday when the Home Office ended its Aspen Card contract with Sodexo and switched to a new contract with Prepaid Financial Services. (The Aspen Card is a type of debit card given to asylum seekers).

51 families complained they have no money for food because of the switch, with more complaints coming in.

This is a vulnerable community already extremely impoverished by asylum rules forbidding them to do paid work or to save money. This state of impoverishment can go on for months or years.

Asylum seekers in accommodation are meant to receive just over £5 a day. Hotel based asylum seekers are meant to get £8 a week. ​ 

The problems being reported are numerous:
“I have an activating issue with the Aspen card”
“I haven’t got my new aspen card and my old aspen card does not work any more so I do not have money to buy food please help”
“I am not receiving my new Aspen card for now and have no money for food”
“I didn’t have new card and have no money”
“Im still not receiving my orange card and my green card has stopped”
“I have not receive my ASPEN card yet. I have been calling migrant help for past three days they keep asking me to wait”
“Please I’m not able to get any money from the new card, it’s not even showing account balance and I haven’t got any money”

To address the crisis, Positive Action in Housing has begun distributing emergency crisis grants, food vouchers, supplies from our Food Cupboard. Our volunteers are also providing additional support.

This latest emergency is on top of the existing destitution crisis affecting hotel asylum seekers in Glasgow, and across the U.K. 

The Home Office (HO) has left many hotel-based asylum seekers penniless for months, despite a High Court ruling in Oct 2020 that the Home Office must give £8 a week plus backdated money. Last month, 75 people in hotels reported that they were not receiving the £8 a week hotel subsistence. Our Homelessness Team took up each case with Migrant Help who then were supposed to take it to the Home Office. But many continue to go ignored. In a significant number of cases, the Home Office has not given asylum seekers the backdated subsistence for months, or more than a year. Our Homelessness Team contacted MigrantHelp (which is also contracted to the Home Office) . They were told that the Home Office will “assess eligibility” for backdated payments only once people have been moved out of hotels. Not only does this go against the High Court ruling, but because of the pandemic, asylum seekers are not being moved out of hotels. The numbers of people in hotels have increased to around 12,500. Many have been held in hotels for more than a year. (At the start of Lockdown, there were around 2,500 in hotels.Please do write to your MP to highlight concerns about the way human beings are being treated.).

Robina Qureshi, Director of refugee and migrant homelessness charity, Positive Action in Housing, said:

“As one of the few charities working on the ground throughout this pandemic, this is yet another emergency situation on top of the existing hotels crisis.

This situation potentially affects thousands of people across the U.K.

“People in flats already are trying to make it through on little over £5 a day and are now being left without money. In the space of just one hour, over 50 people have told us their new cards are not working or they have not received cards at all, or, absurdly, can’t register their dates of birth if it was in the year 2000. Others tell us the balance reads zero, even though they had a little money from last week. People have gone from receiving as little as £8 or £39 a week to having absolutely nothing.

“Asylum seekers have been calling Migrant Help time and again and are being told to wait. But everyone was told their new cards would be working from Monday 24 May. Families with absolutely no reserves have children to feed, there are elderly people with no money, men and women without funds for essential travel. The situation is a disgrace.

“We ask ourselves why is the Home Office wasting so much public money on the administration of £8 a week for asylum seekers. Would it not be better to lift the ban on working and finally allow people languishing in the asylum system for years to find a job , get a bank account, save some money and contribute to society by paying taxes, until the Home Office makes a decision?

“Instead, thousands of people across the country are reduced to a state of impoverishment , dumped in poor accommodation and fearful of the close relationship between their accommodation provider and the Home Office. Or they are hidden in detention centres away from society’s gaze to avoid the full extent of the human right abuses they are suffering being exposed .

“Once the new plan for immigration goes through, there is no doubt more people will be hidden away in asylum reception centres, more will self harm or attempt suicide, more people will be left destitute because of the route they were forced to take to reach the U.K. and because there are fewer safe and legal routes to sanctuary , and many more people will drown on our shores. This will be the legacy of the hostile environment and so called new plan.”

Donate via CAF, JustGiving or PayPal Giving. Alternatively, post a cheque to: Destitution Appeal, Positive Action in Housing, 98 West George St Glasgow G2 1PJ. For other ways to give, visit our donate page

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