Scrap 'Vouchers' for failed asylum seekers who can't be removed

 Bob Deffee

On 29th October 2001, the then Home Secretary David Blunkett announced the scrapping of the voucher system for asylum seekers after a vigorous campaign run by the Refugee Council and other supporters. Under that voucher scheme asylum seekers were not given cash for living expenses; they were given vouchers that could only be used in certain shops, that singled them out and exposed asylum seekers to hostility, and were a nightmare to administer.

At the time they were ditched David Blunkett described vouchers as "too slow, vulnerable to fraud and felt to be unfair by both asylum seekers and local communities."

Yet since April 2005 the Government has reintroduced voucher support worth a pitiful 35 a week for failed asylum seekers who have agreed to return to their home country but for good reason are unable to travel back, perhaps due to a personal medical problem or instability in their home country.

As part of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality (IAN) Bill the Government has agreed that this 35 voucher does not cover all the needs of this vulnerable group - for instance baby clothes for mothers. However, despite all the injustice caused by vouchers the Government has made it explicit that this support has to be supplied in voucher form, not through cash.

Vouchers are an expensive and inefficient way to deliver products and services; exposing vulnerable people to abuse, and often requiring them to use shops which are nowhere near their accommodation. In practice, many vouchers are exchanged for much less than their real value for instant cash, and often can't be used for their full value in any case as products needed don't magically total the amount on the voucher.

Please contact your MP by Wednesday 15th March and let them know:

* That these measures will be debated at Commons Consideration of House of Lord's amendments to the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill on Thursday 16th March;

* That you want them to challenge these measures when they are debated and write to you with their response.

* That you are grateful that the Government recognises that failed asylum seekers who cannot return home need extra support. 35 a week is not enough to live on - especially as they are not allowed to work

* That vouchers have been tried in the past and have failed. They are an administrative nightmare, stigmatise the people who use them, and are impractical;

* That support for failed asylum seekers who cannot return home should be supplied in cash, not in vouchers. People are here - often for long periods of time - because they are unable to return for good reasons such as illness, pregnancy or lack of a safe route home.

* That they can download a full briefing from the Refugee Council and other concerned organisations at

You can find out who your MP is and how to email them at:

Please pass on any reply you receive to Jonathan Cox, Parliamentary and External Relations Officer, by email

or post to:

Refugee Council
240-250 Ferndale Road

Campaigner power won this battle in 2001. Let's give it a go again.

March 2006

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