As Ministers prepare to ask the Commons for approval on the return of the controversial asylum voucher system, UK Green MEP, Jean Lambert, reacted angrily to the proposals that she feared would destroy any progress made over the last five years.
Jean, who has worked closely with asylum seekers for a number of years warned that the vouchers would not only attach a stigma to asylum seekers but would restrict access to the basic supplies people need to survive. Jean commented; "Cash benefits for asylum seekers were reinstated after the original voucher system proved to do more damage than good. Without dramatic changes we will simply end up facing the same difficulties we did five years ago.
"The government acts as if asylum seekers have nothing to offer our society or our economy and restricts their right to work forcing them to claim any benefits they can. These benefits are however provided at a miserable level, designed to rob people of their self-respect and personal autonomy and the voucher system certainly succeeds in stigmatising their bearers.
"Asylum seekers qualifying for 'hard case' support, receiving the vouchers, are here because their homeland is too dangerous to return to. They are not criminals and should not be punished through the rationing of food, drink and everyday essentials. It is high time the government treated asylum seekers as people with a right to life, not simply as numbers."
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Notes to editors:
Jean Lambert: In October 2005 Jean was named MEP 2005 for Justice and Human Rights. Jean was first elected Green Party Member of the European Parliament for London in the 1999 European elections. She was re-elected in 2004. She is one of nine MEPs representing London and one of two UK Green representatives in the European Parliament.