Action for Refugees in Lewisham are urging the public to raise money and donate clothes for destitute refugees after the Home Office slashed benefits for asylum seekers to £5 a day, which the Refugee Council claims is half what the government says a person needs to live on.
The cuts agreed last month mean the weekly rate for a single asylum seeker over 25 will be reduced from £42 to £35 a week.
Iolanda Chirico, chair of the charity said: “Can you imagine living on nothing? Unfortunately many of our asylum-seekers here in Lewisham live off handouts from relatives, friends and local churches. Donations will be used for essentials such as food, baby milk and nappies.”
Hannah Ward, spokeswoman from the Refugee Council said many refugees relied on the local community to survive.
Ms Ward said: “It’s difficult for people who have never experienced poverty to understand what life is like for these refugees.”
Policies that prevented refugees from working in the UK were “leaving people in severe poverty,” she said.
Ms U, 22, who wishes to remain anonymous, attends English classes at the the Lewisham-based refugee centre. She first applied for asylum one and a half years ago after fleeing violence following the civil war in Sri Lanka. She now lives with her mother, sister, brother-in-law and four-year-old nephew in a two-bedroom flat in Lewisham.
Her sister supports the family by working in a shop.
Ms U said: “Now it’s so hard. We have no income. Me and my mum live on my sister’s wage only. Now we have many problems, income problem, food problem, clothes problem,” she said.
“We have no contact with family in Sri Lanka. We don’t know what happened to them. It is very dangerous. We can’t go back. I want to study but I have no money to study.”
Mrs R, from Jamaica, also goes to English classes at the centre. She successfully applied for indefinite leave to remain after waiting several years. But she has had no financial support from the government since February.
“I survive on charities to feed my kids and my rent is in arrears,” she said.
AFRIL are asking the public to give refugees food and clothing. Donations can be made via their website www.afril.org.uk.