Facts about asylum seekers

Asylum seekers are looking for a place of safety

There is no such thing as an ‘illegal’ or ‘bogus’ asylum seeker. Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in the UK and to remain here until the authorities have assessed their claim.
Asylum seekers are not economic migrants. The top ten refugee producing countries in 2007 all have poor human rights records or ongoing conflict. (UNHCR, 2007 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum seekers, Returnees, Internally displaced and Stateless Persons, 2008)
Many refugees and asylum seekers hope to return home at some point in the future, provided the situation in their country has improved.
The 1951 Refugee Convention guarantees everybody the right to apply for asylum. It has saved millions of lives. No country has ever withdrawn from it.

Asylum seekers and refugees do not get large handouts from the state

The vast majority of asylum seekers are not allowed to work and are forced to rely on state support, which is set at just 70% of income support.
Asylum seekers want to work and support themselves. Many do voluntary work while their asylum application is being processed.
Asylum seekers do not come to the UK to claim benefits. In fact, most know very little about the UK asylum or benefits systems before they arrive. (Home Office, Understanding the decision-making of asylum seekers, July 2002)
Asylum seekers do not jump the queue for council housing and they cannot choose where they live. The accommodation allocated to them is not paid for by the local council. It is nearly always ‘hard to let’ properties, which other people do not want to live in.
Asylum seekers do not get special perks such as mobile phones and help to buy cars. They are also denied access to many of the benefits others rely upon, such as disability living allowance.

Asylum seekers and refugees are law-abiding citizens

The vast majority of people seeking asylum are law abiding citizens. (Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Guide to meeting the policing needs of asylum seekers and refugees)
Many destitute refused asylum seekers fear approaching the police to report incidents of sexual harassment and assaults, avoiding contact for fear of being picked up, put in detention and deported. (Refugee Action report on destitute refused asylum seekers, 2006)
6.5% of the vulnerable women who presented to the Refugee Council’s project said they had been forced into prostitution or exchanging sex for somewhere to stay. (Refugee Council: The Vulnerable Women’s project, 2009)
In international and national law, distinctions are made between refugees, asylum seekers, legal and illegal economic migrants, minority citizens, travellers and others. These distinctions are all too easily lost by the media, and most particularly in the tabloid press. (Memorandum from UNHCR to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, 2007)
Immigration officers have the power to detain asylum seekers, even if they have not committed any crime.

Refugees make a huge contribution to the UK

Immigrants, including refugees, pay more into the public purse compared to their UK born counterparts. (Institute for Public Policy Research, Paying their way: the fiscal contribution of immigrants in the UK, 2005)
An estimated 30,000 jobs have been created in Leicester by Ugandan Asian refugees since 1972. (The Observer, They fled with nothing but built a new empire, 11 August 2002)
About 1,200 medically qualified refugees are recorded on the British Medical Association’s database BMA/Refugee Council refugee doctor database, 4 June 2008)
It only costs £10,000 to prepare a refugee doctor to practise in the UK. It costs £250,000 to train a doctor from scratch. (BMA in BBC News, NHS fails to use refugee doctors, 16 June 2004)
Asylum-seeking children contribute very positively to schools across the country. This in turn enables more successful integration of families into local communities. (Office for Standards in Education, The education of asylum seeker pupils, October 2003)

Britain’s asylum system is very tough

The UK asylum system is strictly controlled and complex. It is very difficult to get asylum.
By using visa restrictions and the e-borders programme to strengthen the borders, the UK is closing and locking the doors to those seeking protection. (Refugee Council, Remote Controls: how UK border controls are endangering the lives of refugees, 2008)
Since 2005 people recognised as refugees are only given permission to stay within the UK for five years.
There were only 25,670 asylum applications to the UK in 2008. They have fallen by almost half over the last five years. (Home Office quarterly statistical summary, asylum statistics 2008 )
The Home Office detains roughly 2,000 asylum-seeking children with their families each year. (Save the Children, No place for a child, 2005)
Home Office decision-making remains poor. 23% of asylum appeals decided in 2006 resulted in Home Office decisions being overturned. (Home Office, Asylum statistics: 4th quarter 2006, 2007)

Poor countries – not the UK – look after most of the world’s refugees

The UK is home to less than 2% of the world’s refugees – out of 16 million worldwide. (UNHCR, 2007 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum seekers, Returnees, Internally displaced and Stateless Persons, 2008)
Over 520,000 refugees have fled the conflict in Sudan to neighbouring countries, yet only 265 Sudanese people applied for asylum in the UK in 2007 (UNHCR 2007: Global Trends; and Home Office Statistical Bulletin: Asylum Statistics United Kingdom 2007, 2008)
About 80% of the world’s refugees are living in developing countries, often in camps. Africa and Asia host more than three quarters of the world’s refugees between them. Europe looks after just 14%. (UNHCR, 2007 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum seekers, Returnees, Internally displaced and Stateless Persons, 2008)
In 2008, the UK was ranked 17th in the league table of industrialised countries for the number of asylum applications per head of population. (UNHCR Asylum levels and trends in industrialised countries 2007 and 2008 )

Source: Refugee Council

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