Khadija Ahmed waited two years, three months and 11 days to be granted refugee status. As she waited, living in an asylum hotel, she found herself having to ration travel. During Ramadan, her and her children walked for almost an hour to their mosque while fasting and she missed dentists appointments as they were simply too far.
“When I was an asylum seeker, it was really difficult, because you are getting only £8 per week. The bus fare is not affordable,” Ahmed said.
She spoke outside London’s City Hall, as dozens of protesters and campaigners came together to urge mayor Sadiq Khan to follow Scotland and Northern Ireland’s lead and give asylum seekers free bus travel.
Organised by Citizens UK and groups across London, they say the allowance given to asylum seekers waiting for a decision restricts their ability to travel and integrate.
The vast majority of asylum seekers are not allowed to work while the Home Office decides their status, and so are reliant on an allowance that has recently been reduced. But with the common allowance for asylum seekers £8.86 a week, and bus fares in London £1.75, they are limited on what they can do – and in reality, the essential services they can access. The daily cap on journeys in zones one and two – the maximum charged for unlimited journeys within 24 hours – is £8.10.
Kurdo (not his real name) had his appendix flare up while he was in an asylum hotel and had to wait hours for an ambulance. Had he been able to afford transport, he would have been able to get to hospital quicker, he said: “I was spinning on my head, this means I had the strongest pain ever.”