As we release our two part interview of 4 asylum seekers’ experiences in the UK we bring you some facts about asylum, a system in the UK which is severely distorted through a mainstream media lens, resulting in mistaken prejudice about some of the most vulnerable people in the country.
– 2003 Press Complaints Commission guidance ruled that the phrase “illegal asylum seeker” is inaccurate.
– There is no such thing as an ‘illegal’ or ‘bogus’ asylum seeker. Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 Convention and to remain there until the authorities have assessed their claim.
– Charities have made complaints for over a decade to the PCC on what has been agreed as widespread inaccurate coverage.
“Media outlets often inflate or speculate about numbers of asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants. Newspaper and TV images play into the dominant stereotype of the young dangerous man breaking into Britain and threatening ‘our’ communities. 31 percent of headlines and 53 percent of text about asylum across all newspapers has negative connotations. Language used to describe immigration is highly hostile across all newspaper types, with ‘illegal’ and ‘bogus’ the most commonly used terms to describe immigrants and asylum seekers.
“In addition to mis-reporting, there is also ‘over-reporting’. In 2002, for example, 25 percent of Daily Mail and 24 percent of Daily Express articles were about asylum.”
Chitra Nagarajan, How Politicians and The Media Made Us Hate Immigrants, 20 September 2013
(Following facts taken from Refugee Council report: ‘Tell It Like It Is: The Truth About Asylum’)
POOR COUNTRIES – NOT THE UK – LOOK AFTER MOST OF THE WORLD’S REFUGEES
– The UK is home to just over 1% of the world’s refugees – out of more than 15 million worldwide. (UNHCR Global Trends 2012)
– Over 509,000 refugees have fled the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including about 52,000 during 2012. Only 205 of these people applied for asylum in the UK in 2012. (UNHCR Global Trends 2012 & Home Office quarterly statistical summary, asylum statistics 2012)
– About 80% of the world’s refugees live in developing countries, often in camps. Africa, Asia, and the Middle East between them host more than three quarters of the world’s refugees. Europe looks after just 16%. (UNHCR Global Trends 2011)
The likelihood that a refugee will be recognised as being in need of asylum depends on the country where they apply. In the UK in 2012, 30% of the people who applied for asylum were granted it. In some countries, such as Switzerland and Finland, over 70% of applications succeed. (UNHCR Statistical Yearbook 2010)
– The UK asylum system is strictly controlled and complex. It is very difficult to get asylum. The process is extremely tough and the majority of people’s claims are turned down. (Home Office statistics from 2006-2012)
– A high number of initial decisions made by the Home Office on asylum cases are wrong. In 2012, the courts overturned 27% of negative decisions after they were appealed. (Home Office asylum statistics fourth quarter 2012)
– There is a particular problem with decisions on women’s claims. A 2011 study found 50% of negative decisions were overturned by the courts. (Asylum Aid, Unsustainable: The quality of initial decision-making in women’s asylum claims 2011)
– Asylum seekers do not come to the UK to claim benefits. In fact, most know nothing about welfare benefits before they arrive and had no expectation that they would receive financial support. (Refugee Council, Chance or Choice? Understanding why asylum seekers come to the UK, 2010)
– Many asylum seekers live in poverty and many families are not able to pay for the basics such as clothing, powdered milk and nappies. (The Children’s Society Briefing highlighting the gap between asylum support and mainstream benefits 2012)
– Almost all asylum seekers are not allowed to work and are forced to rely on state support – this can be as little as £5 a day to live on. Asylum seekers are not entitled to council housing. The accommodation allocated to them is not paid for by the local council. Some asylum seekers, and those who have been refused asylum, are not entitled to any form of financial support and are forced into homelessness. This includes heavily pregnant women.
Asylum seeking women who are destitute are vulnerable to violence in the UK. More than a fifth of the women accessing our therapeutic services had experienced sexual violence in this country. (Refugee Council, The experiences of refugee women in the UK, 2012)