European Union asylum law stipulates that member states must ensure everyone in need is guaranteed a fair asylum application process. It also obliges EU states to honor certain humanitarian and social standards in housing asylum-seekers and providing life's necessities. EU members must ensure "adequate standard of living for applicants, which guarantees their subsistence and protects their physical and mental health." In reality, however, member states have very different notions of what constitutes an "adequate standard of living." And depending on the country, asylum-seekers receive cash and/or vouchers to be used in certain shops. So far, there has been no comprehensive overview over who gets what where, which makes a nuanced comparisons between EU member states difficult.
Read more: Germany's asylum system in numbers
Another factor complicating comparisons is the varying costs of living in different EU states. For the sake of simplicity, the following list will only focus on the kinds of benefits afforded to single male asylum-seekers in major EU countries. It will not enumerate what benefits are available for individuals whose asylum processes have been completed and who have been granted refugee protection status.
According to Germany's Asylum Seekers Benefits Act, asylum-seekers receive
€354 ($410) per month, which is approximately €70 less than what recipients of regular social security get. Asylum-seekers living in private accommodation receive part of these benefits in the form of noncash contributions. Individuals living in state-run shared accommodation receive no more than
€135 per month, either in cash and/or as vouchers. Only individuals who have been granted refugee protection status are entitled to regular social security benefits.
Individuals who have applied for asylum in Italy are guaranteed accommodation until their applications have been processed. They receive food, hygiene products and clothing. Critics have long highlighted the poor quality of Italy's asylum-seeker reception centers. Two months after filing an asylum application, applicants may take up a job. Unemployed applicants living in reception centers receive
€75 per month, or €2.50 per day. This financial assistance is only awarded to individuals housed in reception centers.
Asylum-seekers who are able to provide for themselves must pay for their own accommodation. If they are unable to do so, they can live in state-run housing for free. Here, they receive food and a monthly allowance of approximately
€70.Asylum-seekers with children receive an additional €55 per child. Individuals living in private accommodation receive roughly
€225each month to cover food, hygiene products, clothing, medical treatment, medicine and leisure time activities, but not rent. Once applicants are granted refugee protection status and have received a work permit, they must organize their own private accommodation. For comparison: an adult Swede on social welfare receives
€394 per month.
As of 2015, asylum-seekers receive a monthly allowance of
€204. Every additional individual living in the same household gets an extra €102. This financial assistance is adjusted yearly to match inflation. Individuals who reject living in state-run housing lose their right to receive benefits. To access their allowance, asylum-seekers are usually provided with special credit cards that do not require bank accounts.
Individuals applying for asylum in the UK cannot chose where they want to live in the country. Instead, they are allocated accommodation and receive
€170each month to cover expenses for food, clothing and hygiene products. Mothers with children younger than three years old as well as pregnant women receive an additional €13 each month. Asylum-seekers are not allowed to work. They have free access to the National Health Service and state-run schools.
During an initial six-month period, individuals applying for asylum in Spain are housed in shared accommodation. Here, they receive food and a monthly allowance of roughly
€50. An additional €19 is provided for each child. Expenses such as public transport, medical treatment, language courses and the use of translators are reimbursed if an invoice is provided. In a subsequent six-month period, applicants move into private accommodation and the Spanish state covers their rent. In addition, applicants get a monthly allowance of between
€300 and €500, depending on marital status. In a third and final six-month phase, applicants are allowed to work. They only receive social benefits in absolute emergencies.
Asylum-seekers can chose state-run housing, where they receive food and a monthly allowance of
€40. If they opt for accommodation where they must buy and cook their own food, they get an allowance of between
€150 and €200.Some Austrian states have capped this allowance at €100 per child. Asylum-seekers receive up to €150 per year to purchase clothing. Usually, vouchers are handed out for use in specific clothing shops. Children receive up to €200 per year for school supplies. Here, too, vouchers are common. Individuals who opt for private accommodation and chose to provide for their own food, clothing and other necessities receive between
€320 and €365, excluding rent.
In Greece, the National Center for Social Solidarity and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) carry responsibility for providing asylum-seekers with life's necessities and ensuring they have access to health care. Applicants living in state-run housing receive a monthly allowance of
€90, which is sometimes provided in the form of vouchers. On many Greek islands, asylum-seekers struggle to get their cash allowances. A family of up to seven individuals living in private accommodation receives up to €550 per month.
Sources: AsylbLG, Asylum Information Database (Aida), Secretaría de Estado de Migraciones, Government United Kingdom, EASO Annual Report 2018