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British refugee support groups are deeply disturbed about what they see as the government’s oppressive attitude towards asylum seekers. For example, they’re concerned by the recent decision to disperse refugees away from the south east of the country, where most of them arrive. Refugee groups argue also that paying the larger part of refugees’ small welfare benefits in vouchers rather than cash has made their plight even worse than it would otherwise be. This has been fuelled by the discovery that the Home Office (the government department responsible for asylum seekers) is refusing to permit shops to give change in cash when the full value of food vouchers has not been spent, so depriving claimants of a part even of what little they have. The refugee groups have sarcastically coined asylo — short for asylum — as the name for what they see as the debased currency represented by the vouchers.

A new “currency” will soon start changing hands in the nation’s shops and supermarkets. The currency, which refugee groups have dubbed the “asylo”, is a voucher system about to be introduced by the Home Office as a means of giving cashless refugees the opportunity to obtain food and basic toiletries.

Independent, Feb. 1999

The scheme has been attacked by critics as inventing a new currency, the “asylo”, simply to avoid paying welfare benefits direct to asylum seekers.

Guardian, Mar. 2000

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 1 Apr. 2000

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 1 April 2000.