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ASYLUM FOOD VOUCHERS TRADED FOR CASH

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Vouchers issued to asylum seekers to buy food, clothing and other essentials are being traded for cash at about 70%...
Vouchers issued to asylum seekers to buy food, clothing and other essentials are being traded for cash at about 70% of their face value, reported The Sunday Times (p2).

A black market has sprung up, aided by some shopkeepers. Under new legislation, asylum seekers receive£10 a week in cash and the rest - between£35 and£57, depending on age - in vouchers.

A reporter bought two£10 vouchers, redeemable at Tesco, from a 26-year-old Kurdish man living in Harrow for£8 each. Supplied by Sodexho, a French-based company, the vouchers cannot be spent on alcohol, cigarettes or petrol. 'I have no choice,' the Kurd said. 'The cash I get is just not enough and I feel humiliated using (the vouchers). I want to celebrate my birthday with friends, and you can't use vouchers in pubs.'

Another asylum seeker, from Albania, living in a hostel in Leeds, said the trade in vouchers was widespread. 'Some people sell all they get. Some shopkeepers will give you cash, and take their cut. You get£7, sometimes£8.'

John Tincey, spokesman for the immigration service union, said: 'We are aware of the growing black market in vouchers, which alone are not the solution to the problem of unfounded asylum claims. We have encouraged the government to provide more reception centres where people can be accommodated while their claims are assessed.'

The home office said it would investigate the trade.

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