Are 'illegal immigrants' eligible for over four times more in state aid than pensioners?

19 March 2012

Pensions and immigration are two emotive topics, so when one document appeared online claiming that illegal immigrants received better financial support than British-born people, it was no surprise that it quickly went viral.

The document claims that while pensioners who have paid National Insurance contributions receive £106, and spouses of those who have paid can get a further £25, 'illegal immigrants/refugees living in Britain' receive the much larger sum of £250.

One Full Fact reader asked us on our Facebook page to take a look at these figures. So do they stack up? 

The Department for Work and Pensions figures on state pension payouts are close to those cited by the document at £102.15, although their spouses receive nearly forty pounds more at £61.20.

But looking into benefit figures for immigrants, things get a bit more complicated. There is some confusion over what sector of society the writer is actually talking about when they say 'illegal immigrants/refugees living in Britain'.

As the Department for Work and Pensions point out in response to a Freedom of Information request detailing these claims, illegal immigrants are by definition unable to qualify for benefits, since applying for benefits would bring their presence to the attention of immigration authorities.

The document could be referring to refugees — asylum seekers whose application to stay in the country has been successful. They are entitled to the same benefits as UK nationals, and therefore get at least the same state pension as a British-born person.

The House of Commons Library has issued a briefing on this issue, and points out that since the state pension is contributory it is likely that refugees will not have a sufficient record of time to be eligible. Hence the maximum amount of money a refugee will receive is the same as pensioners.

However the document could also be referring to asylum seekers — people who are waiting for a decision on their application for refugee status.

Asylum seekers cannot claim mainstream benefits. Those who are destitute may be eligible for accommodation and financial support in the form of vouchers from the UK Border Agency.

The House of Commons Library states that a single person will normally receive £36.62 per week, while a couple would get £72.52. The 'weekly spouse allowance' mentioned does not exist.

A couple merely gets double the amount of money that a single person receives. These figures suggest that, if the document is indeed referring to asylum seekers, a couple where one partner who has paid National Insurance contributions will be eligible for £54.21 per weekmore money than an aylum-seeking couple. The £100 'additional weekly hardship allowance' does not appear to exist.

In terms of additional benefits from the UK Border Agency, a pregnant asylum-seeker may be entitled to a £300 one off payment, a baby under the age of 12 months receives an extra £5 a week, and pregnant women and children aged between one and three years receive an extra £3 a week.

Looking at the final facts in our document, the writer claims that pensioners receive £6,000 a year. Assuming that this is a single person, they will in fact get a lower figure of £5,329 a year.

Asylum seekers, even if in a couple, get £3,783 a year (£26,117 less than the amount the document claimed). The figures for pensioners are close enough to the truth that it's probably a simple matter of rounding up, but the £29,900 a year figure for asylum-seeker  benefits bears no relation to the actual figure, something confirmed by the House of Commons Library research.

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