Asylum: Dispelling the myths
Myth: "Asylum seekers and refugees get more handouts and benefits than us, don't they?"
* Asylum seekers are not allowed to work unless they have waited for more than 12 months for an initial decision on their case. They 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 get special perks. They are also denied access to many of the benefits others rely upon, such as disability living allowance.
* Most asylum seekers are living in poverty and experience poor health and hunger. (Source: Refugee Council and Oxfam, Poverty and asylum in the UK, July 2002)
* 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. (Source: 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.
Fact: Seeking asylum is a human right, it's not a crime
* Negative portrayal of asylum seekers in the press has a direct and adverse impact on readers' assumptions about asylum seekers in general. (Source: Economic & Social Research Council 2006)
* The vast majority of people seeking asylum are law abiding citizens. (Source: Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Guide to meeting the policing needs of asylum seekers and refugees)
* Asylum seekers often feel unable to report incidents of racial harassment or violence. (Source: ACPO, Guide to Meeting the Policing Needs of Asylum Seekers and Refugees)
83% of female refugees and asylum seekers say they do not go out at night because they fear abuse and harassment. (Source: Refugee Action, Is it safe here?, December 2002)
* Immigration officers have the power to detain asylum seekers, even if they have not committed any crime
Myth: "They're just here to play the benefits system, aren't they?"
* An estimated 30,000 jobs were created in Leicester by Ugandan Asian refugees in the 30 years from 1972-2002. (Source: The Observer, "They fled with nothing but built a new empire", 11 August 2002)
* More than 1,100 medically
qualified refugees are recorded on the British Medical
Association’s database. 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. (Source: BMA in BBC
News, NHS fails to use refugee doctors, 16 June 2004)
* Many refugees have academic or teaching qualifications. There are more than 1,500 refugee teachers in England. (Source: Report of the Refugee Teachers Task Force, 23 November 2006)
* Asylum-seeking children contribute very positively to schools across the country. This in turn enables more successful integration of families into local communities. (Source: Office for Standards in Education, The education of asylum seeker pupils, October 2003)
* Immigrants, including refugees, pay more into the public purse compared to their UK-born counterparts. (Source: Institute for Public Policy Research, Paying their way: the fiscal contribution of immigrants in the UK, April 2005)
Fact: 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.
* 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 are not economic migrants. The top ten refugee-producing countries in 2009 all have poor human rights records or are places where war or conflict is ongoing. (Source: UNHCR Press Release October 2009)
* Most asylum seekers do not choose their destination country. Many of those with some choice come to the UK because they have friends or family already here. (Source: Home Office, Understanding the decision-making of asylum seekers, July 2002)
* Many refugees and asylum seekers hope to return home at some point in the future, provided the situation in their country has improved.
Myth: "They only come here because Britain's asylum system is soft and it's too easy to get in here, isn't it?"
* The UK asylum system is strictly controlled and complex. It is very difficult to get asylum.
* Asylum applications to the UK have fallen by almost three quarters over the last five years. (Source: UNHCR, Asylum levels and trends in industrialised countries 2006, 23 March 2007)
* In 2009, around 2 million people entered the UK, including some 274,000 students. Asylum seekers represented just 0.012% of the total. (Source: Home Office, statistics 2009)
* The Home Office detained roughly 1065 children with their
families in 2009, of whom 715 were asylum detainees (Source:
Home Office 2009 statistics)
* Home Office decision-making remains poor. 28% of asylum appeals decided in 2009 resulted in Home Office decisions being overturned. (Source: Home Office, Asylum statistics: 2009)
* Since 2005 people recognised as refugees are only given permission to stay in the UK for five years, making it much harder to rebuild lives and put down new roots.
Fact: Poor countries - not the UK - look after most of the world's refugees
* Four fifths of the world’s refugees are living in developing countries, half in urban areas, one third in camps. Africa and Asia between them host two thirds of the world’s refugees. Europe looks after just 15%. (Source: UNHCR,2009)
* The UK is home to less than 3% of the world’s refugees – around 290,000 out of 8.4 million worldwide. (Source: UNHCR, 2005 Global refugee trends, 9 June 2006)
* In 2009, the UK was 17th in the league table of industrialised countries for the number of asylum applications per head of population. (Source: UNHCR, Asylum levels and trends in industrialised countries 2009)