30 per cent rise in asylum seeker pay-outs in Doncaster

New figures have revealed how 285 asylum seekers in Doncaster are currently receiving Government subsistence cash - a rise of almost 30 per cent on last year.

Friday, 12th February 2016, 08:36 am
Updated Friday, 12th February 2016, 08:55 am
Minister James Brokenshire

Information released by Doncaster council reveals that 285 asylum seekers in the borough receive a £36.95 weekly subsistence payment.

This time last year there were 220 asylum seekers in the borough.

This figure was revealed by Home Office minister James Brokenshire in the House of Commons in response to a question by David Hanson, shadow Foreign Office minister in October last year.

Mr Brokenshire confirmed Doncaster had 156 asylum seekers receiving the benefits at the end of June 2013.

It rose to 226 at the end of June 2014, but had fallen back to 220 in February 2015.

Mr Brokenshire, minister in charge of security and immigration, said: “Support may be provided under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute until their asylum claim is determined. Section 95 support can be provided as both accommodation and subsistence, or accommodation or subsistence only.”

Those thought to have legitimate claims for asylum are put into accommodation provided by the Home Office while their claims are considered.

While an asylum seeker’s claim is being considered they are unable to work so are provided with a weekly subsistence payment of £36.95 to spend on food, clothing and toiletries.

The subsistence money is paid by central government, and for the number of asylum seekers in Doncaster, this equates to an annual bill of £547,599 for the Home Office.

Fatma, from Yemen, is one of those living in Doncaster.

She first arrived in Britain in 2014 after being awarded a scholarship to study social entrepreneurship at a university in London.

The 27-year-old says she always intended to go back to Yemen, but her plans to go home were destroyed in March last year when an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched air strikes against the Huthi armed group in the country – sparking an armed conflict.

In the following six months, the conflict spread leading to fighting engulfing the entire country.

Fatma says she feared death if she returned to Yemen because she is considered a humanitarian activist – something many people have been killed for.

“For me going back would have been very dangerous, I could be killed if I returned,” she said.

As soon as Fatma realised returning to Yemen could have potentially fatal consequences she contacted the Home Office to apply for asylum. She was moved to a national asylum centre in Wakefield, before being sent to Doncaster.

When she arrived in Doncaster she was placed in a house with four other female asylum seekers.

Fatma says she has enjoyed life in Doncaster and has found people in the town to be very welcoming.

“It’s a big town, and so is much more friendly than London,” she said.

“I have enjoyed living here.”

Fatma has now been granted asylum and is looking for work. Prior to that she had to survive on the subsistence allowance of just under £5 a day. She says it took a lot of ‘adjustment’ after ‘living quite well’ through the money she was awarded as part of the scholarship in London. She is now hoping to find work in her field in Doncaster.