The azure card is given to those who have been refused asylum and are awaiting deportation when it is safe for them to do so. It automatically updates with £35 every week and is only used in participating retailers namely Peacocks, Tesco, ASDA, Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Tesco Convenience and Sainsbury’s Convenience. Only £5 is carried over to the next week if any money is not used.
The problems with the card
As well as limitations with where the card can be used and what can be bought with it, the card often just does not work at the checkout, which not only causes humiliation, but means people have to go without food for days on end. Also, the card does not allow them to purchase tickets for travel. In many cases this can result in missed appointments at the doctors or even for meetings to do with their claims for asylum. There is also the added problem that the instructions for how to use the card are not available in different translations. In connection with this, recently the government announced that it recovered £650,000 worth of unspent credit, which suggests the use of the card is confusing as it can’t be the case that asylum seekers can survive on less than £35.
According to the Guardian: “Sixty per cent had experienced the card not working, including 13 people with children, while 79% reported that shop staff had refused the card, despite being in the specified supermarkets. Almost half had been unable to buy food that met their dietary, religious, or cultural requirements in the specified supermarkets.”
The government’s most recent position
The following was published on the internet on the 25th January 2011 and is available here:
Dr Huppert: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the operation of the Azure card system; what estimate she has made of the level of unspent credit on such cards; and what plans she has to review the system. 
Damian Green: The Azure pre-payment card is administered for the UK Border Agency by Sodexo Ltd Sodexo provides regular updates on the card’s performance to the UK Border Agency’s chief executive.
From November 2009 to December 2010 there have been over 1 million successful transactions which represents 85% of the total. Only 0.25% (3,600) of the unsuccessful transactions were due to technical faults, with 14% due to users not having sufficient funds in their account and the remaining 0.75% due to service users attempting to use their card in non-affiliated stores.
The estimated amount of unspent credit recovered from the Azure card for the first year of its operation is £650,000. The figure is not collated monthly.
Beyond this, the UK Border Agency has no plans to review the Section 4 payment card system.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 September 2011 20:36