MORI poll survey: young respondents' attitudes

17 Jun 2002

A new survey into public attitudes on asylum, published today by MORI Social Research Institute for Refugee Week, reveals that young people in Britain may be more negative in their attitudes towards asylum seekers and refugees than adults. Though the results may reflect young people's lack of awareness, their interest in other things or a need to check with parents before doing things.

Adults and young people across the UK were asked a series of questions which aimed to establish the awareness of and attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers, and it was teenagers (aged between 15 - 18 years old) who were found to respond most negatively.

Young respondents' attitudes differed from the population as a whole and were broadly less well informed. On average they believed the UK takes 31% of the world's refugees and asylum seekers (actual answer 1.98%), with only 4% correctly selecting the right figure. What may be more significant is that this young age group are less likely to be welcoming towards refugees in their community.

The key findings of the poll show:

Young people are less likely than adults to say they would be welcoming to asylum-seekers and refugees. Of those who were interviewed, only 19% said they would be welcoming to asylum seekers/refugees in their community, compared with 26% of adults. However, 30% said they would like to find out more about asylum seekers and refugees (the same proportion as adults), which suggests there is a lack of information available to teenagers (and adults) on the asylum issue.

This lack of information on asylum issues is even more apparent when young people were asked what percentage of the world's refugees and asylum-seekers are in the UK? Only 4% of those asked guessed the correct answer of up to 2%, compared with 12% of adults. The majority of people gave answers considerably higher than this, with an average answer of 31%.

The poll also suggests the media has been unhelpful in providing a positive and informative view of refugees and asylum seekers. Almost six in ten young people (59%) thought 'illegal immigrant' is the term most used by the media when referring to asylum seekers and refugees. 'Foreigners' (43%) was the second most popular, followed by 'desperate' (36%), 'unskilled' (21%) and 'beggars' (17%).

This evidence suggests there is an urgent need to communicate with young people on the issue of asylum, if Britain is going to be a more integrated and non-discriminatory society. We believe the best environment for young people to develop an understanding of asylum issues and integrate with young refugees is in mainstream schools.

A mainstream education is the ideal starting point for refugee children to rebuild their lives and enables the genuine inclusion of all children and their families in our communities. Refugee children who we have consulted have highlighted how important it is to them to be able to go to school, in order that they can make friends, feel part of a community and have more opportunities to speak English. Our evidence also shows that the presence of asylum seeking and refugee pupils in schools, with their strong commitment to education has a positive influence on other pupils and fosters strong community relations.

However, the Government's current plans will deny children seeking asylum their fundamental right to a mainstream education whilst in accommodation centres.

"Clearly, a lot of work still needs to be done to raise awareness among children about who refugees are and why they flee and we see a major solution being better integration in schools. Discriminating against refugee children and removing them from mainstream education can surely only have a negative impact on children's attitudes to refugees," said, chief executive of the Refugee Council, Nick Hardwick.

Ends

Notes to editors

1. The phrase "illegal immigrant" was found in January 2002 by the Advertising Standards Authority to be racist, offensive and misleading. Asylum seekers are not in the UK illegally: seeking asylum is a fundamental human right protected by international law.

2. Refugee Week 2002, running from June 17 to June 23, celebrates the contribution of refugees to the UK and encourages people to take a positive look at the asylum issue in Britain. A series of nationwide events to celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK takes place during Refugee Week 2002, for more information visit: www.refugeeweek.org.uk

3. Read the full MORI poll report 'Attitudes towards Refugee and Asylum Seekers: A Survey of Public Opinion'. You will need Adobe Acrobat to download this document, which you can get free by clicking on the icon at the bottom of this page.

For further information and interviews please contact:

Amnesty International UK, Neil Durkin, 020 7814 6241, out of hours 07721 398984
Director Kate Allen is available for interview.

Refugee Action, Leigh Daynes, 020 7654 7707, out of hours 07810 757752
Chief Executive Sandy Buchan is available for interview.

Refugee Council, Jean Candler, 020 7820 3057, out of hours 0870 0555500 pager 865169
Chief Executive, Nick Hardwick is available for interview.

Save the Children UK, Damien Wilson, 020 7716 2063 or Pippa Ranger 020 7716 2065
Director Mike Aaronson is available for interview.

UNHCR, Claire Doole, 020 7932 1020 or 0777 5566127
Claire Doole and Refaid Director, Diane Yeo are available for interview.

MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 2,166 adults aged 15+, in-home and face-to-face, at 196 sampling points throughout Great Britain. Fieldwork was conducted among 15-18 year olds between 18-22 April 2002, and all adults aged 15+ between 2-7 May 2002. Data were weighted to their correct proportions at the analysis stage. For more information about the MORI poll, please email Michele Corrado or Claire O'Dell or Tel. 0207 347 3000.