Asylum seekers: some myths and truths...

Separating the myth from the truth on asylum seekers

Read a real case study

The myth: Asylum seekers jump the queue when it comes to admission to schools and harm the education of local children
The truth: The children of asylum seekers are subject to the same admission rules as any other resident of Salford. In other words, consideration is given to medical need, whether the child has a brother or sister at the school and how close the child lives to the school.

The myth: Asylum seekers come to Britain and are immediately given free homes and full benefits
The truth: They are not allowed to claim mainstream welfare benefits. Asylum seekers benefits are paid by central government's National Asylum Support Service (NASS) and not from local council taxes, this is to cover their accommodation and support costs. From April 2006, a single person aged 25 or over receives £40.22 a week and a couple receives £63.07 a week this is 70% of what a person on Income Support receives and is below the official poverty line. A national report of asylum seekers and refugees, revealed 85% experience hunger, 95% cannot afford to buy clothes or shoes and 80% are not able to maintain good health.

The myth: Asylum seekers are a drain on the economy
The truth: After initial barriers such as the ability to speak English and the recognition of overseas qualifications are overcome, refugees can make a valuable contribution as professionals, tax payers and as active members of their local community.

The myth: Asylum seekers are illegal immigrants
The truth: Asylum seekers are not illegal immigrants. An illegal immigrant is a person who arrives in the new country and has either NOT made themselves known to the authorities OR stayed in the country longer than they were authorised. Whereas an asylum seeker has made themselves known to the authorities and have been fingerprinted, photographed and security checked. They are then allowed to legally stay until their case is assessed.

The myth: Nine out of ten asylum seekers are bogus
The truth: Unfortunately, as with all systems, some people will try to pull a fast one. However the UK has a very tough system for asylum seekers. Asylum seekers need to provide credible evidence of their situation and proof of their persecution when fleeing their country. Because the system is tough, the majority get their application refused. This could be because they did not have their personal dossier of evidence in order or they had inefficient legal representation, but it does not mean the Home Office caught them out as a trickster.

The myth: Asylum seekers are linked to rising crime
The truth: In every community there are always a few members that ruin it for the rest and asylum seekers or refugees are no exception. However, in 2001 a report published by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) confirmed that there is no evidence for a higher rate of criminality among refugees and asylum seekers. Asylum seekers are less likely to commit major crimes than British citizens, as this would affect their asylum application. In fact they are more likely to become victims of crime in the UK.

The myth: Britain is a refugee magnet
The truth: According to estimates by the United Nations, the UK only hosts 3% of the global refugee population. By the end of 2005 the UK ranked seventh in the world in terms of the numbers of refugees it hosts. The majority of people seeking asylum end up in the country next to their own. For example, Pakistan host the highest number of refugees and asylum seekers (1,085,000), as it borders troubled countries such as Afghanistan or Iran. Over the last three years, France has had the highest number of asylum applications in Europe.

The myth: Asylum seekers are given priority over other council tenants for properties
The truth: Asylum seekers are NOT entitled to council housing. Accommodation and support for people seeking asylum is provided from a range of accommodation providers including private sector landlords and registered social landlords. This accommodation is provided under contract with the Home Office and all costs are met by central government. Once people seeking asylum have been granted leave to remain in the UK they have the same rights as other citizens and will have to queue up on the council housing waiting list.

The myth: Most asylum seekers come from safe countries
The truth: In 2006, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iran, China and Somalia topped the list of countries people flee to claim asylum. In recent years refugees have fled from Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka and the former Yugoslavia - countries where there has been serious conflict or grave abuses of human rights.

The myth: There simply isn't enough room in Salford to accommodate asylum seekers
The truth: The number of asylum seekers allocated to Salford is less than 0.5% of the population. At the same time, according to latest census figures, the population of Salford is falling. Refugees can make a valuable contribution to Salford both economically and culturally.

The myth: Aren't they stealing our jobs?
The truth: People that are waiting for a decision on their asylum application are not allowed to work. Most of them had highly skilled jobs in their countries such as doctors, social workers, journalists, etc. However when they are granted leave to remain and are allowed to work, they usually do not find employment at the same level. They are usually employed in services and industries where there are skills shortages.

Case study

James, an engineer form Zimbabwe, fled his country with his children because he feared for their lives. The father of two was repeatedly attacked by President Mugabe's henchmen over a three year period for his involvement with an opposition party. He said: "A mob came to my house, poured paraffin over me and made me march around the yard naked shouting party slogans in front of my children. They threatened to strike a match."

James now lives in Salford as an asylum seeker anxiously awaiting a decision on his claim. He is not permitted to work but has studied Access to Medicine, Pharmacy and Dentistry and is coming to terms with his traumatic experiences.

This page was last updated on 20 April 2012

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