Chance or Choice for asylum seekers? - Refugee Council
January 28, 2010

Chance or Choice for asylum seekers?

By Philippa in the Communications team

I was irked this week to read reports in the Daily Mail and Daily Express that claimed asylum seekers recently released from detention in France are  now heading to Britain due to its ‘soft touch’ asylum policies, and the ‘legal advice, benefits, and homes’ available here.

This comes just two weeks after we launched our report Chance or Choice: a study into why asylum seekers come to the UK, which proves the exact opposite – that asylum seekers rarely know anything about the UK before they arrive here, and most have no expectation that they will be given financial support.

For the research, Professor Heaven Crawley from Swansea University, carried out in-depth interviews with asylum seekers from different countries including Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia and Afghanistan. The report showed that for the majority, the primary objective for travelling to another country was reaching a place of safety, no matter where that was. The fact that most were in fear of their lives in their home countries, left within a matter of days or weeks, and had little time to plan where to go, shows that asylum seekers do not have the luxury of choosing their destination.

This goes to show the idea that asylum seekers travel here to claim asylum because of what our country has to offer is just not accurate. And creating harsher policies to deter them from coming here will not work!

In the run up to and after the election, we will be using the findings of this report to remind politicians – and some guilty sections of the media – that treating asylum seekers badly after they arrive in the UK is futile, and merely perpetuates suffering. It’s high time they acknowledge the fact that asylum seekers have little choice in coming to the UK, and it is most often their desperate circumstances that bring them here.

Short of reading the Chance or Choice report, it might help the journalists at the Mail and Express to report accurately on the subject if they took a moment to pop into the Refugee Council Day Centre one day. They could then discover for themselves that none of our clients would be able to say Britain is a ‘soft touch’, nor that they are having an easy ride what with the abundance of ‘legal advice, benefits and homes’ they are receiving….