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Tuesday, October 25, 2016
New scheme helps asylum seekers swap vouchers for cash
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¬†In a new initiative at the Brixton Assembly Hall, church and community group members gave asylum seekers cash for their supermarket vouchers. The action took place as part of a 500-strong assembly organised by the community organisation South London Citizens (SLC) and the Jesuit Refugee Service. At present, asylum seekers are not allowed to claim benefits or work in the UK. They often have to rely on support from churches and community groups for accomodation and healthcare and are given £35 a week in supermarket vouchers to buy food. Congolese asylum seeker Azerpay explained: "The vouchers offer no choice. It is cheaper to go to a market and get your food. We also need cash to get around going for interviews and seeing solicitors. She added that supermarkets often don't give change for vouchers. Mesu, who is seven months pregnant, said: "I need to prepare for my baby's arrival and get a basic layette and being able to exchange my vouchers is going to allow me to do so. With the cash that I receive I can also buy a bus pass to go to my English class in the evening. At last I can buy some food for a much cheaper price in the African market than in the supermarket," said Mesu. The vouchers are are issued to asylum seekers under section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration Act. Asylum seekers covered include those who have a judicial review pending on their case, those who have been able to introduce a fresh asylum application and so have a new case or have agreed to return to their country of origin and agreed to be supported in this way in the meantime. The SLC assembly also celebrated the extension of the services being provided by the group known as Friends of Lunar House. The volunteer group provides a welcome to asylum seekers who come to process their applications at the Border and Immigration Service centre at Lunar House in Croydon. The group provides a welcome, including a cup of tea, to the often frightened asylum seekers. Jeremy Openheim, the director for regional and operations, welcomed the group's work and said they could now expand their operations from just Tuesday to Tuesday to Thursday and "any other day they wish." "I believe this group has made a real difference to the asylum seekers and staff," said Mr Openheim, who received a cup of tea by way of thanks. To find out more about the voucher exchange project, contact JRS at 6 Melior Street, London. SE1 3QP/ tel. 0207 357 0974 or email
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