Asylum Seekers Wrongly Paid £10m In Benefits

(Telegraph) – ASYLUM SEEKERS were wrongly paid nearly £10 million in benefits last year, it has emerged.

A Home Office audit found officials mistakenly handed out £9.6 million in housing benefit and living allowances.

Overpayments happened when payouts continued even after asylum cases were concluded.

The real total could be even higher because officials at the UK Border Agency have not calculated the cost of errors made in previous years.

Critics condemned the waste of taxpayers’ money and called on ministers to ”get a grip” on the problem.

David Davies, the Tory MP for Monmouth, who sits on the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said: ”This is yet another disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money and another huge blunder by the UK Border Agency.

”Millions of pounds are being thrown away and very little is being done to prevent it – at a time when the country is economically bankrupt.”

The payouts were revealed in the Home Office’s official accounts for 2008/9. They showed two-thirds of the total – nearly £7 million – was in cases where payments had been stopped but not within the required time limit.

In the remainder, payouts continued after asylum claims were rejected or approved.

Officials have been forced to write off the money because of ”legal obstacles” to recovering it, the report states. Trying to recover allowances could also leave failed asylum seekers in dire poverty.

The document blamed ”shortfalls” in the system of bureaucratic controls.

It accepts officials do not know how much was wrongly paid out in previous years.

The report states: ”When a decision is made for asylum support to be ceased on the casework system, procedures should have ensured that the payment system stopped making payments.

”There were shortfalls in the controls over those procedures that meant those procedures were not consistently applied.

”It is possible that cessations made in earlier years were also subject to delays and losses could have occurred – this has not been quantified.”

New controls have been introduced to stop similar errors in the future, the document states.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “This is yet another example of how the Government has created an asylum system that manages to combine staggering incompetence with cruelty.

“Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money could be saved if asylum seekers were allowed to work to support themselves, rather than relying on state hand outs.

“Responsibility for the asylum system should be taken away from the blunderings of ministers and given to a Canadian-style independent agency.”

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