Azure cards are for asylum seekers on Section 4 support – people who have had their claim for asylum turned down, but are appealing, or have agreed to return to their country of origin but are currently unable to do so. They provide just £35 each week and, following a change in the law in 2002, asylum seekers are denied access to cash and do not have the right to work.
Azure card is accepted at the big four supermarkets plus Boots and Peacocks, though there are no charity shops or halal meat suppliers signed up and no possibility of shopping in a Market or in specialist foreign food shops. There is no access to cash, for basic things such as bus fares, hair cuts, shoe repairs and postal and telephone communication with legal representatives.
A few schemes have been set up by charities and churches, whereby asylum seekers buy £35 worth of supermarket vouchers a month. These are then purchased by local people who pay £35 a month to the scheme (not the asylum seeker directly) by standing order. The asylum seeker gets £35 worth of cash a month, and the doner gets a supermarket gift voucher. This is community-based charity at its very best. It means that even those who do not have much money themselves can help, because they don't actually lose any money.
The home office ruling that came into effect on 1st July, forbidding the purchase of supermarket gift cards by asylum seekers with azure cards, makes this simple act of kindness that makes such a difference to vlnerable and destitute people, impossible.