Sunak attacks Labour over basic income payments to young asylum seekers

By: David Deans

See original post here.

The prime minister has attacked Welsh Labour for allowing some asylum seeker children to take part in Wales’ basic income pilot.

The £20m scheme offers £1,600 a month to 18-year-olds leaving care, including unaccompanied asylum seekers.

Mr Sunak said it was unbelievable ministers wanted to pay “illegal migrants”.

The Welsh government has said it wanted to help young asylum seekers rebuild their lives.

While it is not clear how many asylum seekers are claiming the cash, BBC Wales was told a small number of asylum seekers are taking part.

The Welsh government denied that the young people involved are illegal migrants.

Ministers launched the basic income scheme last year to see how the payments could help care leavers be better placed as they become more independent.

From the start of the project, unaccompanied asylum seeker children (UASC) turning 18 have been able to apply for the money, which amounts to £1,280 a month after tax.

The scheme offers unconditional monthly payments for two years to those who have been in care for 13 weeks.

Figures up to 8 March showed there were 294 recipients of the basic income pilot. It is expected around 500 will eventually join by the time the scheme closes to new applicants in June.

A total of 152 recipients have said they were Welsh, 57 said they were British and 37 said they were English. A total of 35 described their nationality as other, within that there were 29 different nationalities.

13 did not provide a response to the question.


Wednesday’s row began after the Welsh government made a request for legal aid rules to be eased for recipients of the pilot. Conservative ministers have refused.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday Welsh Secretary David TC Davies said Labour ministers wanted to exempt asylum seekers “from having to pay the same legal bills the rest of us would be subject to”.

In response the Welsh government said their request on legal aid only related to those with active asylum claims at the point of leaving care, and said ministers were asking for aid to continue for vulnerable people who have left the care system and were taking part in the pilot.

Officials said the request was not about exempting young asylum seekers from the legal bills which would apply to others, as only asylum seekers need to progress an asylum claim to receive indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Rishi Sunak, at Prime Minister’s Questions, said: “I know the Labour leader has said that the Welsh Labour government is his blueprint, and unbelievably as my honourable member said, Labour in Wales are trying to pay illegal migrants £1,600.

“We’re stopping the boats, Labour are paying for them”.

‘Right to be supported’

The Welsh government spokesperson said:  ”In line with our Nation of Sanctuary approach, we want to ensure that unaccompanied asylum seeking children are supported to rebuild their lives and are not prevented from accessing appropriate Welsh government schemes and benefits to support their integration.”

Later they added: “It is disappointing that inaccurate and misleading claims are being used to trivialise these sensitive issues.”

The Welsh government has previously been unable to convince UK ministers to amend rules to prevent the cash from impacting an individual’s benefit entitlement.

Three Welsh ministers, including Counsel General Mick Antoniw, wrote to the UK government in March asking if recipients of basic income could be exempted from means testing thresholds for legal aid.

Officials say it is unlikely those in receipt of basic income payments would qualify for legal aid under the “means” test, should they need legal representation.

The law society says that asylum seekers can be entitled to free legal advice to help with asylum claims if they have little or no money.

In response justice minister Lord Bellamy and David TC Davies rejected the Welsh government request.

They added: “Receipt of income from the pilot does not mean they would be ineligible for legal aid”.

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