Refugee support groups have given a cautious welcome to the announcement that the voucher system for asylum seekers is to be reviewed. The government announced that they plan to review the system, but refused to bow to demands to scrap it altogether. Home Officer minister Barbara Roche told the Labour Party conference in Brighton on Thursday that the controversial system was working well and there had been few complaints. But she conceded that there had been concerns that the scheme would be reviewed only to bring in lower value vouchers to allow change to be given in shops. There have been complaints that stores and supermarkets are profiting from the scheme because no change can be given for vouchers. The Transport and General Workers Union leader Bill Morris said the vouchers were "inhuman" and published a dossier showing that refugees feel "deeply ashamed" when using them. He backed his belief by giving a moving account of how he had gone shopping with a 30-year-old GP asylum seeker who had fled persecution in Iran. He said he saw the look of "despair, anguish and shame" when the doctor reached the checkout and had to hand over his vouchers. "All we are arguing is that when people are accepted here they should be treated with some respect and some decency," he said. "We should work towards a system of support which eliminates the voucher altogether." Speaking on behalf of Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, who chairs the Bishops' Conference Committee for Migrants and Refugees, Mr John Joseet said: "We welcome the fact that the government is considering revising the system. We have been totally opposed to it from the start. It is difficult to operate and incredibly degrading for refugees, separating them from the rest of society." But he said he was concerned the government may just "tinker with the edges" rather than make any real changes.
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