How Priti Patel needs to fix the Aspen Card
The UK government changes company outsourced to provide the Aspen Card - This is an opportunity to do things better.
- The Aspen Card contract with Sodexo has ended. Prepaid Financial Services takes over.
- This is an opportunity to end the unjustified surveillance of asylum seekers through the Aspen Card.
- It is time for more transparency from the government on financial monitoring.
- The terms and conditions of the card should be accessible to all.
The Aspen Card - the debit payment card given to asylum seekers that PI has previously exposed as a de facto surveillance tool - will be outsourced to a new company. The contract with Sodexo has come to an end and the company Prepaid Financial Services will be taking over.
Our campaign for transparency in relation to the Aspen Card and how it monitors asylum seekers continues. Not only do we demand clarity from the Home Office [read more here], we believe the new provider, Prepaid Financial Services has the opportunity to tackle the basics.
We will be writing to Prepaid Financial Services asking them to:
- End the unjustified financial surveillance of asylum seekers.
- Increase transparency around the Aspen Card and the conditions and systems in place which alert to breach of conditions or safeguarding concern.
- Publish terms and conditions which are clear and accessible
Ending the unjustified financial surveillance of asylum seekers
The personal testimonies from asylum seekers taken by Privacy International [read here] have exposed the detrimental impact of the close monitoring of the purchase habits of asylum seekers. This has real consequences for asylum seekers’ mental health.
Privacy and dignity should not be the price you pay for basic subsistence. Unjustified and routine monitoring and surveillance must stop.
Our research and the testimonies gathered demonstrate that the purchase habits of asylum seekers are monitored. Purchases that do not appear to fit within opaque Home Office expectations (or an equally opaque automated system) but which have a simple and justified reason, are flagged. Asylum seekers are investigated and their benefits suspended. For example if they save money to buy a coat or travel outside of a geographical area where they are registered.
Increase transparency around the Aspen Card and the conditions and systems in place which alert to breach of conditions or safeguarding concern.
The Home Office have not provided sufficient detail on routine monitoring of asylum seekers. It is time for Aspen Card users to really know what happens to their data and how they may be used.
Prepaid Financial Services must clarify how, when and why purchase habits are monitored; investigations pursued and benefits suspended.
Publish terms and conditions which are clear and accessible
Given that many asylum seekers speak little to no English and some do not know how to read and write the terms and conditions related to the Aspen Card should be publicly accessible and translated. Translations must be available for any required language and specific support should also be provided for those who cannot and write. The content of the text itself must be written in a language that is accessible and user-friendly.
Our interviews have revealed that some asylum seekers were receiving letters to inform them their benefits would be suspended but they were unable to read those letters, thus leaving them with no avenue for redress.