Asylum seekers do not get £175 per week on a prepaid card

20 September 2022
What was claimed

‘Illegal immigrants’ are given £175 per week on a prepaid Aspen card.

Our verdict

Destitute asylum seekers waiting for an asylum decision are eligible for £40.85 per week per person on a prepaid Aspen card, not £175 per week. There are some small additional amounts available for young children and pregnant women.

Posts on Twitter and Facebook claim that “illegal immigrants” receive £175 to spend on an Aspen card every week, as well as accommodation in hotels. This is not correct, and more accurately reflects the amount asylum seekers may receive each month, not each week.

The posts appear to refer to support for asylum seekers, as they mention the Aspen card, which stands for Asylum Support Enablement

People waiting for a decision on their asylum application, if destitute, are eligible for a cash allowance and somewhere to live.

However, an individual asylum seeker will not get as much as £175 per person on a prepaid card per week. An asylum seeker living in accommodation where food is not provided can get £40.85 per person in the household to pay for food, clothes and toiletries. This money is loaded onto an Aspen card, which is a prepaid debit payment card given to them by the Home Office.

There are additional payments available to certain asylum seekers. Pregnant mothers and children aged between one and three get an extra £3 a week, and babies under one get an extra £5 a week. If an asylum seeker is pregnant and the baby is due in eight weeks or less or they have a baby under six weeks old, they can get a one-off maternity payment of £300.

Asylum seekers are not eligible for mainstream benefits and are generally not allowed to work either.

People whose asylum requests have been refused and are destitute but who can’t immediately leave the country—for reasons including “physical impediment”, like being heavily pregnant, or there being no route of return—can also get financial support. 

This can include somewhere to live, a one-off payment of £250 if they are heavily pregnant or have just given birth, and £40.85 per week on an Aspen card  (though it can’t be used to withdraw cash).

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Asylum seekers put up in full board hotels get much less than £40 per week

Asylum seekers who have nowhere to live can be given somewhere to live, but they are unable to choose where and it’s unlikely to be in London or the South East.

The posts mention asylum seekers living in hotels. As we’ve discussed before, when someone first arrives in the UK intending to seek asylum, and applies for asylum support, they can be provided with initial accommodation while their eligibility for further support is assessed. This initial accommodation is often full board and in a hostel.

Stays in this accommodation are supposed to be short term, but there have been significant delays in the last couple of years meaning people have stayed in these places for much longer.

If their application for asylum support is granted, theoretically an asylum seeker is moved from initial accommodation to dispersal accommodation, which is usually a furnished flat or house away from London or the South East as described above. If they are placed in this kind of dispersal accommodation, they get £40.85 per person per week, as above.

But if there’s no designated accommodation available, asylum seekers may be offered contingency accommodation which can include hotels or B&Bs. If this accommodation is full board, so provides meals for people, asylum seekers staying there get £8.24 per week to cover “clothing, non-prescription medicine and travel”.

The government said the cost of housing asylum seekers in hotel accommodation in 2021/22 was £922 million.

Other benefits

We’ve seen similar claims on Facebook that also mention asylum seekers getting “free dental treatment”. This is true—asylum seekers are entitled to free dental care, healthcare on the NHS, eyesight tests and prescriptions.

Image courtesy of Jan Antonin Kolar

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