Covey responds to Immigration Minister's attacks - Refugee Council
November 19, 2008

Covey responds to Immigration Minister’s attacks

This week, the Immigration Minister, Phil Woolas MP, was quoted in an interview with the Guardian newspaper as saying he thought asylum charities were playing the system, and placed the blame for long appeals processes on refugee organisations and lawyers.

In response, Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:

“Having your asylum claim rejected does not make you an economic migrant. We see refused asylum seekers every day – they have come here in good faith, but many do not meet the UK’s strict criteria for asylum. Others do have genuine protection needs, but have been failed by a system where initial decision making can still be poor. For some nationalities, such as Eritreans and Somalis, almost half of refused asylum seekers have their cases upheld on appeal. These are people who would be in danger of persecution such as murder, torture or rape if sent back to the repressive regimes they are fleeing. The appeals process is a vital safety net for these people.

“As a refugee charity, we work with people who have come to Britain to ask for protection here. They have left behind everything- family, friends, their own culture, to seek safety in a strange land. When asylum seekers get to the UK , they are not allowed to work, they are given only minimum support, and they are detained and criminalised. Some of them, in the end, do not qualify for protection, but that is what a good asylum system should do – offer safety to those who need it and deal fairly and humanely with those who don’t.

“The staff and volunteers of refugee charities like the Refugee Council are an essential lifeline for people who have lost everything. The minister should be proud of people who continue the British tradition of providing a safe haven for people fleeing persecution.”

See also

Guardian: Asylum-seeker charities are just playing the system, says Woolas

Guardian: ‘You can’t come in’