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New report reveals scale of deepening poverty for people seeking asylum in Wales

08 Jan 2024 4 minute read
Pro-refugee protest. Picture by Haeferl (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Asylum Matters has published a new report which reveals the devastating impact of living on asylum support and the effect of the rising cost of living.

‘Surviving in Poverty: A report documenting life on asylum support’ contains the results of a survey of over 300 people seeking asylum in Wales and across the UK which shows how they face a continuous struggle to meet their most fundamental needs. This includes being unable to afford food, clothes, toiletries and public transport.

Immigration is the responsibility of the UK Government but asylum seekers and refugees who come to Wales receive public services and support provided by the Welsh Government, local authorities and other organisations.

Deepening poverty

The report comes as cuts to asylum support rates come into effect for many sanctuary seekers in Wales on Monday 8 January – with those living in hotels having their allowance cut from £9.58 a week to £8.86 a week, further exacerbating the deepening of poverty demonstrated within the report.

Deprived of the right to work, the report shows that the rising cost of living has pushed people seeking asylum further into poverty. Compared to a similar survey we did in 2020, people are facing even tougher decisions on whether they can afford the basic essentials.

The key findings from the report include:

  • 91% don’t always have enough money to buy food
  • 75% can’t always afford the medicines they need
  • 85% struggle to afford the cleaning products they need
  • 97% experience difficulties affording the clothes they need
  • 65% face challenges affording the toiletries they need
  • 95% can’t always afford to travel where they need to by public transport
  • 88% don’t always have the data and phone credit they need
  • 83% say asylum support payments aren’t enough to cover the rise in the cost of living.

People who answered the survey said:

“My weekly allowance is barely enough to get me food for the week, so when it is time to buy toiletries, my food reduces.”

“My baby is growing up very fast and the clothes are too small.”

“Staying in a period of five years in that condition creates a huge impact on your mental and emotional health. You see yourself as a parasite and a prisoner.”

This situation and the harsh reality of trying to live on asylum support underscores an urgent need to reform asylum support and the asylum system, including the right to work. We want people to have the chance to rebuild their lives in the UK.


Asylum Matters has made a number of demands which are: that the Home Office must increase rates of asylum support to allow individuals and families to meet their essential living needs; the Home Office must ensure that the methodology for setting asylum support rates is fit for purpose and should reflect the real-life experiences of people seeking asylum; that people seeking asylum should have the right to work after six months of waiting for a decision on their asylum claim, unconstrained by the Shortage Occupation List.

According to the organisation, free bus travel should be made available for people seeking asylum on a UK-wide basis, as is currently the case in Scotland.

Emma Birks, from Asylum Matters, said: “The stark reality is that the low level of support means people seeking asylum are trapped in a never-ending state of financial uncertainty. In our report, people told us how they have to make agonising choices, where one essential need must be sacrificed for another. We’re calling on the government to increase rates of asylum support to allow people and their families to meet their essential living needs.

The Home Office is responsible for the provision of asylum accommodation and subsistence rates whilst an asylum seeker’s  claim is being considered. The UK Government has a central role to play in the support available to people seeking sanctuary in Wales – from ensuring individuals receive timely and accessible information, to sufficient subsistence amounts for people to live and maintaining high standards of asylum accommodation.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Wales is a Nation of Sanctuary with a long history of welcoming people seeking sanctuary, and we continue to value and benefit from their skills, entrepreneurial spirit and the sharing of their cultures. It’s vitally important for the future of Wales that we harness the ability of all that come to make a new life here.

“Our Nation of Sanctuary Plan sets out the actions and work being undertaken to reduce the inequalities faced by those who seek sanctuary in Wales.”


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Gareth Westacott
Gareth Westacott
6 months ago

Many Welsh people also struggle to keep a roof over their heads, to put food on the table, pay the heating bills, buy clothes, etc. Why should some ‘chancer’ who’s entered the country illegally, calling himself ‘an asylum seeker’ or ‘refugee’ (well he would, wouldn’t he?) get treated any better?

Last edited 6 months ago by Gareth Westacott
ci du
ci du
6 months ago

Well, there’s a lot to deal with in your statement and it deserves a much longer response dealing with all the subtexts and subtle arguments. But basically, all human beings deserve to be treated well, and if you think asylum seekers are chancers you should spend some time with them and listen to their stories. But I suspect you’re just a racist who enjoys seeing dead foreigners. If you’re the real Gareth Westacott I am saddened that you’re just a Welsh Nat Daily Mail Reader.

Gareth Westacott
Gareth Westacott
6 months ago
Reply to  ci du

Yes, I am the the real me. Now, answer me this …. who is the real you, seeing that ‘ci du’ isn’t your ‘real’ name?

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