Pregnant asylum seekers among thousands left destitute in UK, says Red Cross

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Pregnant women and new mothers are among thousands of refugees and asylum seekers left destitute in the UK, a leading charity has warned.

The British Red Cross said it came to the aid of 5,438 people, including dependants, without adequate access to food, housing or healthcare between January and March this year.

Pregnant asylum-seeking women and families with babies were among those given support.

The organisation said it provided nappies to 70 women and baby packs to 94.

Alex Fraser, director of refugee support at the British Red Cross said: "These figures show how our asylum system can leave anyone destitute, even new mothers with infant children.

"Many of these women have already suffered appallingly, arriving in the UK after fleeing conflict or persecution and hoping for sanctuary.

"It's shameful that bureaucracy and administrative delays are leaving women to rely on charity to eat sufficiently during pregnancy and to get hold of nappies for their new babies.

"We are extremely concerned by the unnecessary stress this causes to women who are already significantly vulnerable because of the fact they are seeking asylum."

Asylum seekers can apply for accommodation and financial support, which is provided at a rate of £36.95 per person in a household per week.

Extra weekly payments are also given to pregnant women and those with children aged three or under, along with one-off maternity grants of £300 for soon-to-be or recent mothers. 

However, the British Red Cross claimed that women frequently experience significant delays in receiving the additional payments.

It said it gave one woman cash for food and other essential costs when, 40 weeks into her pregnancy, she had received no additional payments, leaving her unable to prepare for her baby's arrival.