A post shared hundreds of times on Facebook says: “The best barrier for stopping illegal immigrants is to stop ALL benefits to illegal immigrants”.
People in the UK without a legal right to be here are not entitled to claim any benefits. Asylum seekers, including those who arrive in the UK on small boats (whom the government often describe as “illegal migrants”) also can’t claim welfare benefits, but do receive some financial support from the government as well as help with housing if they need it.
Claims about the amount of support asylum seekers and other immigrants are entitled to regularly circulate on social media, and we’ve written about similar claims on a number of previous occasions. These kinds of posts can undermine understanding of public policy and foster social division based on bad information. Online claims like these can spread fast and far, and are difficult to contain and correct.
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‘Illegal immigrants’ aren’t entitled to benefits
There’s no precise legal definition of an “illegal immigrant”, but the term is often used to refer to people who are in the UK without a legal right to be here.
It is already the case that if you don’t have a right to be in the UK, you’re not allowed to claim benefits.
Asylum seekers can claim financial support
This post doesn’t clarify what is meant by “illegal immigrants”, and it’s possible that it’s referring to people who have travelled to the UK irregularly (for example, by small boat or by lorry) in order to claim asylum.
The government frequently refers to this group of people as “illegal migrants”.
Asylum seekers are not entitled to claim Universal Credit or other benefits while their claims are being considered by the Home Office, but they are entitled to some financial support, as well as help with housing if needed.
Asylum seekers whose accommodation does not include food are entitled to a cash allowance of £47.39 per week for each person in a household (approximately £2,464 per person, per year). This allowance is loaded onto a debit card—known as an ASPEN card—each week, which can be used to withdraw cash to pay for things like food, toiletries and clothing.
For asylum seekers whose accommodation provides food, the allowance is £9.58 per week (around £498 per year).
There are also extra allowances for pregnant asylum seekers, or mothers of children under the age of three.
Asylum seekers whose cases are refused are also entitled to £47.39 per week loaded onto a payment card, which is conditional on accepting the government’s offer of accommodation. A one-off £250 maternity payment is also provided to mothers whose cases are refused whose baby is due in eight weeks or less, or is under six weeks old.
Refugees can access the benefits system
If an asylum seeker’s claim is approved and they are granted refugee status in the UK, they are entitled to claim benefits if eligible on the same basis as UK nationals.
The only specific form of government financial help available to refugees is a refugee integration loan: an interest-free loan of between £100 and £500 for individuals, or £100 and £780 for couples, which can help pay for things such as a rent deposit or rent, household items or education or training for work.
Image courtesy of stux