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Living in London on £5 per day

Advocacy 22 December 2015

Can you imagine living in London on £35.39 a week? As meager an amount as it may seem, this is the reality for many of our members, who are forced to subsist on Section 4 support. Since 2010, financial support to refused asylum seekers has been administered via the Azure payment card, which can be used to purchase essential items from a limited range of retail outlets. The Azure card has raised critical voices from the charity sector, claiming that it is unworkable, problematic and unfair for a number of reasons. A recent Red Cross report argues that that people using the Azure card struggle to meet their basic needs due to insufficient funds and the poor value for money offered by Azure authorised retailers. Many of our members testify to this; but more often they report the feelings of humiliation and entrapment which come from being forced to use the card.

Thirru: My Azure card shows the world I am a burden. At the supermarket, they always make a big drama when I try to pay with the card. Some of them know how to use it, others don’t know. You have to be well prepared. Firstly, I look for the people who look nice at the cashier. Who looks confident and quick? I don’t want a tired person because they won’t have the energy to sort it out. A young person who was born here, they will try. I’m amused by their confidence. They won’t make a big deal. Someone who seems innocent. Someone who thinks there is no difference between one customer and the next customer. I prefer it if they don’t smile because I don’t want them to ask me “how are you?” “What are you doing this evening?” I don’t go to the Asian people. They know what the card is but they pretend that they don’t. They also ask you “where are you from?” Self-service is better, but it is always an Asian person at self-service or maybe someone who looks a bit rough.

I was buying bread, milk and toothpaste. The lady said “we stopped using this card” – there was a long queue waiting. I got angry, like shaking in my hands. I said, “you just swipe it and that’s it.” Then escape the card. Then the drama. “No no no”, she said. Everybody was watching, watching. She called the manager and the manager shouted – “this is a government benefit card”. I felt undressed. Naked. The manager reached over and swiped the card.

I held my breath until I left.”


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