Talking about asylum as election looms - Refugee Council
March 30, 2010

Talking about asylum as election looms

By Anna, Campaigns team

The Daily Express dropped another clanger yesterday, when they wrongly used the term ‘asylum’ twice in an editorial about economic migrants from Eastern Europe. In response (and frustration!) we sent them a letter outlining the difference between people who come here to seek safety from conflict and persecution, and those who come here for other reasons – which we are pleased to say was printed in the paper today.

Much of the hostility that asylum seekers face is a result of this kind of misunderstanding. So this is a perfect example of why not only the media, but politicians too must ensure asylum is not confused with general immigration issues, particularly in the run up to the election when immigration is expected to be a hot topic of debate.

Earlier this month, we wrote to parliamentary candidates and sitting MPs, asking them to pledge to debate asylum issues responsibly, and:

  • remember the importance of providing safety to people fleeing war, torture and persecution
  • avoid racism and xenophobia in discussions about asylum and immigration
  • ensure a fair and balanced debate on these issues

We then asked Refugee Council supporters to contact their own MPs and candidates. As living proof that they will listen to no-one more than their constituents, suddenly the pledges started rolling in! We’ve had over 200 responses so far, but we want many more to make this promise.

Your candidates need to know that to win your vote, they must publicly acknowledge the need to debate asylum sensibly. Signing the pledge is such a simple thing for them to do, but a concrete way for them to show support on the issue. It also enables us – and you – to hold them to account if you hear them using inflammatory language on a public platform or in the media.

So we urge you to contact your MP about our Asylum Election Pledge today. You can visit our website and see how you can do so – it will take you less than five minutes. We’ll keep you posted on how many pledges we receive – and any other clangers we come across – so watch this space!