The letter the Daily Express didn’t want you to see

29 Sep 2014

Last week, the Daily Express ran a series of hostile stories about asylum seekers.

First, they were outraged at the thought of asylum seekers being temporarily housed, through no fault or choice of their own, in a hotel on the coast.

Then, they railed against the cost of the asylum system.

And then they wrote this, an aggressive, misleading attack on some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

We were extremely concerned and we weren’t the only ones. We quickly teamed up with our friends Refugee Action and the British Red Cross to write a response. We wanted the chance to set the record straight, and give Express readers a more accurate understanding of who asylum seekers are, and why it’s vital we protect them.

Sadly, the Daily Express failed to publish our letter.

So here it is, in full.

This is the letter the Daily Express didn’t want you to see. So please share it as widely as possible.

 Dear Sir,

The stream of aggressive stories about asylum seekers appearing in this paper in recent days is of serious concern to all of us who work with and support people fleeing persecution.

Your readers would be forgiven for thinking the UK is being flooded by asylum seekers. This couldn’t be further from the truth, with asylum applications around the 23,000 mark a year the UK is home to less than 1 per cent of the world’s refugees and takes proportionately below the EU average.

To characterise the people housed in Folkestone as having a ‘lovely break’ by the sea that Brits would be envious of is hugely misleading and dangerous.

Asylum seekers are people who have often fled horrifying experiences in their home countries. Some have been raped. Some have been tortured. Many have witnessed the death of a loved one. Be assured, people who have suffered extreme trauma and whose lives are hanging in the balance will not be focusing on the sea view of temporary room.

There are no refugee visas available for people fleeing persecution. The fact that people are forced to travel clandestinely is recognised within the Refugee Convention and British Law. Entering Britain illegally can be a necessity; it is not an indication of the validity of someone’s asylum claim.

Additionally, appealing a refusal does not indicate someone cheating the system. Decisions on asylum claims can be life or death and the appeal overturn rate shows the Government frequently gets it wrong the first time.

Stirring up hostility against asylum seekers is as unwelcome as it is unsavoury in a country with a proud tradition of protecting refugees.

Maurice Wren, Chief Executive, Refugee Council

 Mike Adamson, Acting Chief Executive, British Red Cross

 Dave Garratt, Chief Executive, Refugee Action


(63) Comments

  • Liz Owen
    29 September 2014, 11:41

    My heart goes out to these poor immigrants as they have fled from their own homes through fear. I travel to Calais about 4 times a year and see them there in appalling conditions and lining the roads hoping to find a way to the UK. However, what I do not understand is why they are not given the same accommodation in Calais as they are here if we are all abiding by the EU laws. Without the charitable work of some of the French, they would starve there so surely the French are liable to help them in the same way we do?

  • Adele Owen
    29 September 2014, 14:01

    it is so important that the truth be told and you, the Daily Express stops telling untruths that make things so much worse for those who have already been through so much.

  • Lilian
    29 September 2014, 14:43

    why do we have such bias and blinker wearers in our country?

  • john Strange.
    29 September 2014, 16:47

    In many ways the comments of the Express only reflect the opinions of some of the general public and there readers.

  • Gwyneth Worthington
    29 September 2014, 16:53

    Daily Express, stop scaremongering and report accurately the plight of refugees!

  • Tony Greene
    29 September 2014, 20:02

    The Express is a vile rag that spends it's time sowing hate and discord among the people of this country. Even when they tell the truth they slant it so hard that it looks like lies. Sadly i'm not surprised they failed to print your letter, you'd have to take over their printers for that to happen.

  • Fatuma Yasin
    29 September 2014, 23:35

    It's nice to see the letter daily news

  • Rachel Potts
    30 September 2014, 11:09


  • Michael Pagett
    30 September 2014, 15:27

    This is a classic example how government and media maliciously mislead the public to suit their own limited understanding of reality.

  • Ewan Roberts
    01 October 2014, 10:56

    The letter is clear, accurate and factual but does not fit with the Express vision of Britain. Perhaps the editors need to get out more. Cheers Ewan

  • jeremy coleman
    01 October 2014, 22:06

    The first sane, humane and balanced piece of writing on this subject that I've seen in a long time...

  • Janet Rourke
    02 October 2014, 13:44

    Newspapers like these stir up such pain and fear. Thank you for publishing the response

  • Jackie
    02 October 2014, 23:01

    So pleased to read your excellent letter.The Daily Express seems to have a personal mission againsg asylum seekers,printing inaccurate and incindary articles.I rang and spoke to them about this years ago expressing my anger at their generalisations when as you say many asylum seekers have traumatic pasrs.The response from the man I spoke to was arrogant and with no regard for truth.We must speak out against such a horrible attitude.This paper makes me ashamed and I am so pleased that you have so clearly corrected them.

  • Barbara Dixon
    03 October 2014, 09:51

    I personally know people who are refugees and have heard their stories. Most of them face death if they are deported, a lot of them are Christians who come from Muslim countries. We need to make sure that they are interviewed by someone who knows what a real committed Christian is, being a Christian is not like choosing to be Labour or conservative, it is a 2 way relationship with Jesus, an experience that changes your life. I have heard of interviewers who think that knowledge of the Bible, or lack of, is a fair way of finding out if they really are what they say they are. In a lot of hostile countries owning a Bible, if you can find one is impossible. Please let us get real and provide fair hearings for these desperate folk.

  • Susan lammiman
    03 October 2014, 10:40

    So concerning that this is happening in the UK. The Australian gov have even more draconian measures no discussion at all only the greens have compassion had.y any asylum seekers here they're all in a concentration camp on Nauru. Some to ve sent to Cambodia. Susa Lammiman

  • Carol Hawkins
    03 October 2014, 10:55

    I said this to my husband yesterday evening, the press make it sound as though we're overwhelmed. I always take these stories with a bucket of salt ( a pinch not being enough as they're often so wide of the mark). I don't work in the sector but I have met several refugees and I don't know how they cope with the horrors some have seen. I do agree that there will be some who should not be here, but that doesn't mean that the majority should be 'sent back where they came from'.
    Please keep up the good work with the refugees and trying to get the truth out there. Thank you

  • Chris Berger
    03 October 2014, 16:12

    The chilling effect of Leveson, eh?

  • Dave Jewell
    03 October 2014, 16:57

    Daily Express aside, here's an article from the Daily Mail which reports how (in 2011) we let in more "refugees" than any other country in Europe.

    Notice the figure in that article: 14,360 people were given asylum in 2011. Three years later, you're quoting a an application figure of "around 23,000". (I.e. more than 23,000).

    Personally, I'm not at all against admitting genuine asylum seekers, but I do emphasize the word *GENUINE*. You state that some have been raped, and that some have been tortured. Can you give figures for that, please? What percentage of asylum seekers have been raped? What percentage have been tortured? I would prefer to see solid figures rather than vacuous statements.

    Speaking of which, you mention that the UK is home to less than 1% of the world's asylum seekers. Quite right, when you consider that the UK has slightly over 0.01% of the world's land area! In other words, one could argue that we already have 100 times more refugees than we should have!

    I repeat, I'm not against finding room for *GENUINE* asylum seekers, but anyone can make a case through selective use of statistics.

    Best regards,
    Dave Jewell

  • Jean Howard
    03 October 2014, 17:55

    Thanks for publishing this balanced and compassionate statement regarding the plight of those fleeing situations unimaginable to most of us.

  • Kenneth ford
    03 October 2014, 18:55

    My right wing nationalistic views prompt me to reply. Many of these refugees enter the country illegally jumping the queue over the genuine people.whatever your feelings we just cannot burden the British people with the burden of keeping these people. Also the benefits they receive in many cases are far more than the natives of this country receive. I worked in London for many years seeing a lot of the problems first hand and many of them show no gratitude for all they are receiving. Yes,I do feel sorry for the genuine ones but it has to stop somewhere. Address the issue of illegal immigration and those that just disappear once they are here and we could then start afresh. Lots of the people who feel so strongly like the writers of this letter live a comfortable existance not coming face to face with the problem. One way of helping the problem would be to stress the help we can give the genuine refugees and not the economic migrants trying to get into the country illegally just to claim the benefits we offer.

  • Jules Sutton
    04 October 2014, 07:35

    your anti immigration bike serves only to introduce hate into your readers. It does not help the situation.

  • Caroline
    04 October 2014, 08:40

    Isn't incitement to racial hatred a criminal offence?

  • steve
    04 October 2014, 15:38

    Fair comment and I agree with these sentiments. I have rescued refugees from conflicts while serving in the military. But, most of these have travelled through other safe countries to get here! This has been highlighted recently with the problems in the port of Calais.

  • Nicola Slade
    04 October 2014, 18:27

    Think we're all getting a bit fed up of the tired old "Someone doesn't want you to know/see/read this, so pass it on". Grow up a bit folks. You're not in primary school.

  • steve
    04 October 2014, 22:30

    And the express article author obviously believes his ancestor's assylum claim was more legit than the people he is writing about. Grrrrr

  • Debra lynch
    05 October 2014, 03:07

    Ive met a number of refugees and heard thier stories of how they got here & whh they made such a dangerous journey feeing terrible situations etc. These are people who need are support & want to contribute to this country returning to tneir country when possible.

  • Emlyn Williams
    05 October 2014, 16:24

    The belittling of real asylum seekers is shameful. It plays into the hands of neo-nazis all across Europe.

  • Joe Bloggs
    05 October 2014, 17:19

    To Dave Garratt, Mike Adamson and Maurice Wren,

    I would ask 1 simple question and that is this:

    The Asylum seekers are all seeking better lives and escaping oppression and other persecution, why do they chose Great Britain to settle. Under the Geneva Convention those fleeing must seek asylum in the 'first safe country' they come to, which would not normally be the UK as they will have travelled through several 'Safe Countries' to get here.
    So why do they chose Great Britain ?

  • John Laing
    05 October 2014, 17:26

    Many years ago, Prince Philip famously said, "The Daily Express is a bloody awful newspaper!" It is certainly true that the leopard cannot change its spots ...agreed?

  • Ali Mitchell dos Santos
    05 October 2014, 17:54

    Sometimes I'm ashamed to say I'm British

  • Beryl Murdy
    05 October 2014, 20:32

    About time someone told what the newspapers are doing to twist the truth and not printing responses is dreadful and definitely not what most caring Britons believe!

  • Behnam
    06 October 2014, 11:35

    I have never seen someone jealous like the write of the article on the Daily Express. He, clearly, has never had a contact with an asylum seeker. He sit in his office and wrote a judgment based on what the statistics say and what he had heard. Though not many people read Daily Express, I'm still sorry for those who still read it.

    There are still many many many people donating their money, time and attention to organisations who work for refugees and asylum seekers. It means that not everyone thinks like the writer of the article.

  • Dave Deighton
    06 October 2014, 13:39

    Shared on Facebook..

  • Pete Eiseman-Renyard
    06 October 2014, 17:43

    My ancestors fled to England from religious persecution……..many generations ago, being Huegenots in France in the time of Charles II. My wife's grandparents fled persecution in Russia before the First World War. We bear their names proudly.
    The Daily Express is garbage.

  • Kevin McShannon
    06 October 2014, 20:50

    I appreciate being made aware of what is going on. Thank-you.

  • Damien barber
    07 October 2014, 00:16

    Well said

  • David Parkin
    07 October 2014, 12:15

    "Patriotism last refuge of a scoundrel" could well be the motto of Daily Express. Nazis sympathisers in the Thirties and now has some of the most devious reporters.

  • Poppy Tyson
    07 October 2014, 13:24

    Send details of this to PRIVATE EYE they love knocking the national newspapers.

  • Ross Wilson
    07 October 2014, 17:27

    I never cease to be amazed at the bestial attitudes of some of our newspapers; experiencing some of the trauma leading to the presence of refugees in the UK would send most of the editors running to the nearest psychiatrist. Wouldn't that be a sight?!!!
    We need a wholesale and aggressive campaign to counter such nonsense, especially in the areas where refugees are housed. The hate campaigns of papers like the Mail are an affront to human dignity, and abhorrent to decent people.

  • Lynne Khan
    07 October 2014, 22:13

    The press has a lot to answer for. My life is spent trying to help make life better. This kind of biased report is responsible for causing needless fear and anxiety in the minds of many readers. The Daily Express should be ashamed.

  • Grahame
    07 October 2014, 22:22

    The Editor - in - chief, board and journalists of the Daily Express would see things differently if they were refugees. And don't forget that there were many refugees from Germany during WWII - including one Albert Einstein.

  • Sue Clark
    08 October 2014, 10:37

    Express Newspapers are all thoroughly nasty and extremely right wing. We must not let them get away with this lying rubbish. Please get the message out there

  • Robin Butler
    08 October 2014, 14:20

    I'm so glad you wrote this to the Daily Express, and shame on them for not printing it, but what else would one expect? It's a sad reflection on Britain that so many of our fellow citizens continue to support such organs of bigotry and ignorance as the Express and Daily Mail.

  • Janet Phillips
    08 October 2014, 23:16

    I fully support this letter. As I do, I am thinking of two young students I worked with at the university last year, both of whom had been granted asylum by this country. Both of them were the only remaining members of their families, who had been slaughtered, and were entirely alone in the world. Their experiences were very difficult to listen to, so horrific was what had happened. Despite this they were studying to try to make their way in the world. I remain proud that this country gave them shelter. I am appalled at the way their plight has been trivialised by this newspaper.

  • Brian Gray
    09 October 2014, 10:48

    My first reaction was one of disbelief, that such an article could be written by one whose family entered this country as refugees. My main reaction is that the Express is seeking to add UkiP voters to its readership, so I, for one will refrain from buying Express publications forthwith. May I suggest others do likewise?

  • Jon Carver
    09 October 2014, 12:18

    only the Express could try to sell Folkestone these days as a desirable destination for a holiday or any other pleasurable activity. Idiots and reactionaries make up their readership and their editorial staff know very precisely which of their buttons to press.

    10 October 2014, 18:48


  • Ed Hides
    10 October 2014, 21:13

    It makes me so sad to wake up in the morning, get in my car, turn on my radio and listen to a loathsome individual like Nigel Farage spouting his message of intolerance and hate. Why can't we have more news like this promoted in prime news slots rather than relying on your friends sharing this on social media. Brilliant letter. Thank you for all your work.

  • Frank Burns
    11 October 2014, 17:56

    It's the Daily Express remember.A right wing rag of the highest order. Has been since I was a child. Always will be. They can't even forecast the weather.Every year they say: ''Heavy snow on way for the whole of the winter'' or some such rubbish.Save your money-buy the 'i'newspaper. A reasoned journal that takes an OBJECTIVE view of the world.

  • T. Dixon
    11 October 2014, 18:17

    My father, both sets of my grandparents and my husband were refugees. They all worked hard. If you look back in time a great proportion of the world were once "refugees" from somewhere or another.

  • Grainne Tobin
    11 October 2014, 20:32

    I am disturbed by the horrible things said about refugees and by the paranoia and misinformation spread about them. I'd like to be able to reply without hostility to friends who go on like this, in a way that has a chance of changing their minds.

  • Fiona Gee
    11 October 2014, 21:28

    We don't need your sort of propaganda.

  • Des Platt
    12 October 2014, 01:29

    Despicable paper

  • ioan G Jones
    12 October 2014, 08:00

    Read this, then hit this rag hard :- a reader stop. buying it, a shopkeeper stop selling it, an advertiser stop giving it your adverts. At every opportunity condemn it.

  • Rosemary Browning
    12 October 2014, 08:18

    It saddens and angers me to read this. Even with recession, high housing costs, low pay rise etc, we still live in a very comfortable place. I cannot begin to imagine the mental anguish these people suffer, to say nothing of the physical ones already suffered. There is enough here to share even if it means we all have a little bit less.

  • Ralph Carr
    12 October 2014, 11:12

    Anyone fleeing a corrupt, repressive and torturous regime, in fear of their lives is safe in the UK. Economic migrants are a completely different matter. There are not enough jobs for British people, never mind people from other nations. That being said, all I an is that people coming into Britain, obey the Law, and pay their taxes.

  • David Ritman
    12 October 2014, 14:00

    Just another example of the gutter press dissembling untruths and lies in an attempt to make peoples of the world turn on each other, rather than on the power brokers.

  • Chas Milne
    12 October 2014, 14:54

    no surprise that the right wing press would not publish your letter. We live in a time when government mouthpieces wish to spread disinformation and fear - myths that the underprivileged, persecuted, and
    Unfortunate souls of this world are simply a burden to be shunned and abhorred as an unnecessary financial burden on us all. What will occur later if this govt. distances itself from international Human Rights I shudder to think. We are slowly returning to the British politics of the late 18th Century, where to be a critic of the right wing was to be a threat to good security.

  • Chris Renehan
    12 October 2014, 17:27

    well done the Express deserves a critical slap. It does remain unfortunate that most of its readers believe what it publishes.

  • erika mcgrath
    13 October 2014, 09:20

    many of the seekers have recourse to the uk from colonial days or countries we have helped to destablize, we have always been a refuge and a safe haven , please be more compassionate towards their needs x

  • Vicky Seddon
    14 October 2014, 08:41

    Good letter! Why stir up such hatred if not to distract from the ever increasing and damaging disparities between rich and poor in this country? People who have suffered so much already become the whipping-boy of this disjuncture. It is disgusting

  • Peter Scotland
    15 October 2014, 12:34

    Well written! We fail to realise the appalling conditions which these people face in their own country. They do not take the decision lightly to leave home to face the dangerous journey tas they seek freedom, and justice, often leaving loved ones behind, whilst we live in great comfort in the UK. These people need all the help and understanding the media can give them!

  • Refugee Council
    20 October 2014, 11:55

    Hi everyone,
    Thanks very much for your comments and support.

    For a few of you, the letter raised some questions; we'd like to try and answer some of them.

    Eileen Hay - you wondered where the 1% figure came from. The answer is from the UN's Refugee Agency UNHCR in their annual analysis of global forced displacement. You can find the full report here if you're interested:

    Dave Jewell - you were wondering what the true asylum figures were. We can't speak for the Daily Mash, so we don't know where their figures came from, but ours come from the Home Office. In 2013, there were 23,584 asylum applications. You can find a briefing on annual trends here:
    Another thing to keep in mind is that the asylum application figures and the asylum grants will obviously be very different. At the moment, only around 37% of initial decisions are grants of some form of protection.

    Kenneth Ford - you expressed concerns about asylum seekers coming into the country illegally. Refugees are commonly forced to travel clandestinely in order to escape their country and many people have to risk their lives in the process. Sadly, there is a real lack of safe and legal routes for refugees to reach safety. Reaching the UK through irregular means does not invalidate someone's asylum claim - this is recognised within the Refugee Convention. We know that many people, particularly those forced to use the services of smugglers, do not have control or say over their destination. You can read more about these issues in our research report, Chance or Choice:

    Nicola Slade - we're sorry you're tired of this tactic. Unfortunately, in the face of media hostility, it can be the only way to present the other side of the argument. As you'll see from many of the comments above, others have found having access to the facts useful.

    Liz Owen & Steve, you both had queries about people passing through safe countries in order to get to the UK. There is nothing in international law to say that people must seek safety in the first safe country they reach. There is, however, an agreement between European states that states are responsible for asylum claims made within their territory. This means that if someone initially claimed asylum in Italy, and then went on to claim asylum in Germany, the Germany authorities could then return that person to Italy to have their claim processed. We don't think this system is fair; if it worked exactly as it should, the countries on the borders of Europe would be left to shoulder most of Europe's responsibility for protecting refugees.
    People can want to move on for a variety of reasons; some may be trying to rejoin their loved ones in other countries, others may be worried their claim may not be dealt with fairly in certain countries (you can read more about what a lottery the EU protection system is here:
    Others, who may have been forced to use the service of people smugglers in order to flee, will often have little control over their journey and destination. You can read more about that scenario in our research report Chance or Choice here:

    We hope this helps answer a few of your questions. Thank you for helping us #TellItLikeItIs

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