Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Lessons learned from the asylum seeker challenge

In week four of this term, members of the Warwick STAR team participated in the Asylum Seeker Challenge, which aimed to understand the struggle that asylum seekers face when moving to the UK. In this, individuals are given £38 for their livelihood, which does not roll over if they save any money. This money goes towards bus passes, food and other necessities needed to live in the UK. The team describes the lessons they learned from the experience, as well the main struggles they faced in this budget.


Rana, President of Warwick STAR

This is the second time I’m doing the Asylum Seeker challenge as I started the challenge up the last academic year. Not many of us did it, but I cannot say it was any easier than the first time. I admit that I actually failed to keep under budget this time round (I was £2 over) as I got my period on the fourth day and had not accounted for that in my budget at all. It really made me realise how difficult it can be for an asylum seeker to live off such a limited budget if something unexpected does happen which you didn’t budget for. It made me understand the necessary work that charities like Bloody Good Period do and how sanitary products are actually a luxury that not many asylum seekers and refugees can afford – sanitary products are definitely not affordable on such a limited budget which clearly does not take that into account!

Sam, Social Secretary

This was my first time attempting the Asylum Seeker challenge, the thing that really struck me whilst attempting the challenge was that, whilst it is possible to survive off £38, it’s very difficult to live off it. Not being able to meet up with friends for a coffee, have a drink, and having to be exceptionally careful about whether I really need to spend that £1 is not too much of an issue for a week. However, having to live in that situation, unable to work, unable to save, with the threat of deportation hanging over you, unable to truly live, for years on end is simply beyond comprehension.

Rattan, Vice President

After the Asylum Seeker challenge, I realised both the privilege I have in my everyday life and the hardships that asylum seekers face when they first arrive in the UK. To budget down the very last penny every week is a deeply stressful experience which gives asylum seekers the most meagre of existences. It is certainly not the friendly welcome into the UK most people would want asylum seekers to have.

Nico, Publicity Officer

The challenge makes me realise that leaving your native country, your affections, to go living in a completely different environment is just the first difficult step in the life of an asylum seeker.


The Asylum Seeker Challenge helped me experience first hand that an asylum seeker has to think twice about every spending decision. It made me realise our privilege of living a -mostly- carefree life.


I found that living off £38 (£26) was an eye-opening experience, it was not only challenging but also made me very aware of the barriers of such a tight budget. The harsh reality faced by asylum seekers when arriving in the UK has made me very aware of the injustices and inequalities that need to be challenged and overcome.


Living on such a tight budget while trying to keep up with my usual routine proved to be quite a challenge and could definitely not be sustainable over a long period of time. It really brought to my attention the difficulties and inequalities that asylum seekers face, and action must be taken soon to improve their quality of life.

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