Refugees and benefits – some facts
Today I found out that refugees claiming asylum in France get slightly more benefits than those in the UK. Quite a shock given all the people claiming on social media that the UK is a ‘soft touch’ and that refugees come here for the benefits. But then I do know that three times as many people claim asylum in France every year as do in the UK. So is our asylum system really so generous?
The reality is that the refugees who apply for asylum here – usually because of family ties or shared language – don’t have access to any more benefits than in other places. In the UK, the weekly allowance for an adult asylum-seeker is £40.85. (1) That is slightly lower than in France where people get £42.42 each week (2) and considerably lower than in Germany where they get £74.42. (3)
Asylum-seekers in the UK can qualify for accommodation and financial help while they wait for their claims to be decided. But this is the same in other European countries. The difference is that other European countries allow asylum-seekers to work if their claims haven’t been decided within a certain number of months. In France they can work after six months (4), and in Germany after 9 months (5). In the UK, they can only work after 12 months. That is a whole year of living off £5.80 a day while being unable to contribute their skills to our economy and country. When refugees come to Britain seeking protection, it’s important that they can integrate and get to know people. It would help if they were allowed to work sooner.
Detention is used much more extensively in the UK’s asylum system than in other EU countries. We also don’t have a limit on how long a person can be detained under immigration powers, whereas other countries all do.(6)
Of course we’re all free to believe the opposite to these truths if we’re so inclined. But doing so won’t help us face up to the current global refugee crisis and it won’t make it go away either.
Whatever you think about immigration, surely you would want Britain to do more to help people fleeing war and torture. Britain can’t help everyone but we can do more to help – and every man, woman and child who finds safety here is someone who isn’t living in fear of their life.