Poverty and even destitution are very common among asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers in the U.K. The impacts of such deprivations upon asylum seekers include mental health problems, high levels of hunger, high levels of maternal and infant mortality, and difficulty navigating the legal process. Politicians argue that welfare benefits and the possibility of working act as pull factors encouraging economic migrants to claim asylum, thus they state it is necessary to limit financial support for asylum seekers.
Welfare support for asylum seekers is being held below poverty levels on purpose. If you believed the media coverage of asylum seekers in the U.K. one might assume that they are all well off. That would be wrong. Asylum support payments are deliberately set low – at just £36.95 per week. Asylum seekers are living on an income which is less than a third of the income of the poorest 10 percent of British households.
The Home Office spent £173.6 million in 2014-15 on asylum support, whereas the U.K. spends about £146 billion on means-tested benefits, to help the poorest members of society. If asylum seekers were given the full level of income support, the cost would increase by £36.2 million. When set within the context of a £146 billion welfare bill these figures appear relatively low, £36.2 million would add 0.02% to the total welfare bill.