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“Morally reprehensible” plans to strip asylum seekers of benefits

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​Moves to halt benefits for failed asylum seekers condemned

Plans to strip asylum seeking families of benefits has been described as morally reprehensible by a leading charity.

It comes after the Home Office revealed it was considering removing the automatic right for unsuccessful asylum seekers with children to claim benefits until they are deported.

Currently parents and children get £36.95 a week each through the Azure card – a prepaid payment system.

Home Office minister James Brokenshire said the move was necessary to promote the message that the UK was not “a land of milk and honey.”

But the Refugee Council said it would leave families destitute with no means to support themselves.

The government has a duty to protect all children in this country

Lisa Doyle, the Refugee Council’s head of advocacy, said: “We have grave concerns about the government’s proposals to remove support from some of the most vulnerable families in the UK, many of whom fear there is real risk of serious harm or persecution to them and their children if returned to their countries of origin.

“We know that the government frequently gets life-and-death decisions on asylum claims wrong, as nearly 30% of appeals are successful. This harsh proposal seems to be based on the flawed logic that making families destitute will coerce them into going home.

“The government has a duty to protect all children in this country and previous governments have recognised it is morally reprehensible to take support away from families with children.”

The move is being seen as a political gesture as the government comes under increasing pressure over the Calais migrant crisis where thousands have been attempting to enter the UK and disrupting freight and transport links.

Brokenshire said: “What we are looking at now is family groups which continue to maintain that automatically against a backdrop of people trying to present the UK as somehow the land of milk and honey and that somehow if you get here you automatically are entitled to welfare.

“We think it is right that if you don’t have that claim – in essence you are here illegally – there should not be an automatic right to receive that benefit.”

The £36.95 figure is a revised amount created after the government reduced the level of financial support for families with children seeking asylum by £16 per child per week.

Gary Christie, head of policy at the Scottish Refugee Council, said the UK government should commit to an independent review into the levels of support that asylum seekers need to survive, and allow parents the “dignity to work and support themselves and their families.”