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UKBA bans purchase of gift cards by asylum seekers

The UK Border Agency has announced that asylum seekers who receive asylum support under 'section 4' provisions, will not be able to use their Azure pre-payment cards to purchase gift cards.  The UKBA became aware that asylum seekers were buying gift cards in supermarkets and then selling them to others for cash.  This has meant that supporters could purchase and use them, and in return the asylum seeker could use their cash elsewhere.

Azure cards can be used only in certain supermarkets - principally Sainsburys, Tescos, and Morrisons.  This is a problem for many asylum seekers because they might be able to buy things cheaper elsewhere, or they need to buy halal food when there are next to no suppliers of halal food who accept the Azure Card. 

Asylum seekers without children would also change their support to cash in order to avoid losing it on Sunday night if they had not spent it.

The Azure Card has also stigmatised asylum seekers who have been refused certain purchases or faced comments from checkout staff - something both the supermarkets and UKBA have been eager to eradicate.  Difficulties are also caused because the payment is rejected if the asylum seeker attempts to purchase a basket load that costs even a penny over the ammount credited to the Azure card.

Section 4 support is provided to asylum seekers whose initial application has been unsuccessful, but who are (for instance) either awaiting voluntary return to their country of origin, are pregnant or with a new-born child, or who have a fresh application to stay under consideration. They are treated differently from asylum seekers who are making an initial claim ( those receive cash support).

Despite the intention for section 4 support to be short term, it is not uncommon for refugees to be reliant on it for many months or even years.  Only £35 per week per person is paid in support, plus the provision of accommodation - typically sharing a room with another asylum seeker, previously unknown to them.  There is no provision for the support to be used for replacement clothes.  Many organisations working with refugees have criticized the harsh nature of the life that those on section 4 support lead.