Refugees are increasingly forced to resort to charity food parcels, according to a community kitchen set up for the homeless in Reading.

Some have so little money to feed and clothe themselves that they attend the free service outside Town Hall in flip flops during winter, the Lead Volunteer for Nishkam SWAT Reading said.

Rupee Chagar, 52, who has volunteered with the Sikh food charity for five years, said almost a third of the people she helps each week are refugees, whereas none used their service when she started.

“It’s very sad because they have left their war-torn countries to find a better life here and they’re here with their young children and families.

"They’ve got no guarantee they’re going to get food for the next day or how they’re going to clothe themselves for the winter months ahead.”

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The number of food parcels Ms Chagar and her team hand out each week has risen from 140 to 200 in the last five years, as the charity expands from helping the homeless to meeting the needs of those struggling with the the cost of living too.

Of each 100 people using the service, 30 are refugees – mainly from the Middle East and the African continent – with the rise concentrated in the last 18 months, according to Ms Chagar.

“Some of them have children as young as a few months old,” said Ms Chagar.

Reading Chronicle:

The Government spending £6.8 million a day putting up migrants in hotels – at an average cost of £150 per person per night.

Asylum seekers in "catered" hotels receive £8.24 a week to buy essentials, according to the Home Office.

A spokesperson for the Home Office, who are in charge of the policy, said: "Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with support whilst we consider their claim for international protection. 

"This includes free, furnished accommodation and utilities as well as a weekly allowance for food, clothing, transport and goods"

A spokesperson for Reading Borough Council said: “The Council is sad to see anybody having to resort to food parcels.

“Where refugees or asylum seekers are accommodated by the Home Office in hotels then food is provided.

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“Where they are living in other dispersed accommodation they do not benefit from hot meals and will of course be impacted by the current cost of living crisis, as is the case for the wider population.”

But Ms Chagar said the food available to refugees in the hotels is not enough, after hearing of the experience of her service users.

“They talk about them being in the hotel and in the mornings breakfast is a rampage there because it’s first come first served.

“Sometimes they can go there and they find there’s no food for them.”

She continued: “They are families. The environment they are living in in hotels is not a good environment for the young children to be in.

“My main concern is the children. The adults can get by but for the kids its difficult.

 “They don’t have their home comforts, they’re stuck in a room and when it’s school holidays it must be very depressing and isolating for them.”

Nishkam SWAT Reading provide hot meals for people struggling to afford food, including those with and without homes, every Wednesday at 7pm and Sunday at 6pm outside the Old Town Hall.

It is the first UK Sikh charity to take Langar, a community kitchen tradition introduced to Sikhism by its founder, to the streets.