Thank you for contacting me on the issue of asylum seekers during the Coronavirus pandemic. Please be assured that the Government understands the strength of feeling on these issues.
I will begin by highlighting the wider provisions in the asylum system and addressing your specific concern around the asylum support payments.
I know that the Home Office is working hard to ensure people are not unfairly affected by circumstances beyond their control. You may be pleased to know that the Government is keeping family immigration requirements under review and this includes the minimum income requirement. I have been assured that Ministers will make adjustments where it is necessary.
The Government has already introduced measures to support and help those with immigration status. If an individual is in the UK and their leave is expiring, their visa will have already be extended to the 31 May 2020 should they be unable to leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation relating to Coronavirus. This applies both to those who have been refused asylum and granted asylum. Local Government support has also already been increased by the Government, and local authorities have received guidance on how to ensure all rough sleepers are safely accommodated and able to self-isolate, irrespective of their immigration status.
Further, nobody being tested and treated for confirmed cases of Coronavirus will be subject to NHS charges.
The Home Office is working closely with colleagues in Public Health England as well as with accommodation providers to ensure we have appropriate arrangements in place for anybody leaving detention who is receiving asylum support and/or living in asylum accommodation and who is required to self-isolate and providing them with advice and guidance via our AIRE Provider, Migrant Help.
On your point about asylum support payments and supporting asylum seekers, I reference this Home Office publication dated 26 April 2020:
- Those placed in hotel accommodation receive free meals, toiletries and other support. Those who were already in the support system and accommodated in houses and flats will continue to receive cash payments to cover their other need and that the Home Office annually review the level of the cash payments.
- The Home Office also continue to ensure that those who are unable to support themselves are moved to free accommodation in order to meet their statutory duty. A wide range of measures have been implemented to ensure their guidance on social distancing and self-isolation is properly applied.
- Local Authorities continue to be consulted about hotel use and where to place new asylum seekers entering the support system.
- I also understand that those asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are supported by the Home Office on application, rather than local authorities.
- Individuals who are provided with accommodation can remain in their current accommodation until the end of June and this will be kept under review.
The Government is doing everything it can to resolve issues relating to the pandemic as they arise.
Thank you again for contacting me. If you would like to stay up to date with the latest information from me, you can sign up to my e-newsletter here.