Right now, with the rise of ‘fake news’ and so many misleading myths about refugees in the media, it can be hard to know the truth about asylum. That’s why its never been more important than now to share the facts.
How many of these myths have you heard before? Find out why they are wrong and what the truth really is.
No, there is no such thing as an “illegal asylum seeker”. That’s because everyone who claims asylum in the UK has a legal right to do so. There is no such thing as ‘entering illegally’, if you enter a country in order to claim asylum.
The truth is they don’t all try to come to the UK. In fact:
Every summer, politicians and parts of the media whip up a frenzy about the number of people crossing the channel in small boats. And while there are more people who have no other option but to take this dangerous route this year, the latest numbers of people claiming asylum in the UK are actually down.
Spending millions on border ‘security’ and criminalising refugees simply forces people to even more desperate and dangerous journeys. Instead, we should be spending this money creating a system where people can apply for asylum safely and efficiently.
There are lots of misconceptions about the number of refugees who come to the UK, with some people mistakenly believing that the UK is a hotspot for attracting refugees. This is simply not the case.
In fact, the vast majority of people who are displaced stay within their home country and 73% of those who cross a border stay in a neighboring country. Only around a third of refugees come to Europe and a tiny proportion of those come to the UK.
For the vast majority of refugees, the only way to get to the UK is via an irregular route, such as on a boat, lorry, or using a false document. There is no other way.
Options such as getting a visa to claim asylum, or claiming asylum at an embassy, are not made available to refugees. For most refugees the only option is to get to the UK first, then claim asylum.
Whether a person is a ‘real’ refugee depends on the risk they face in their country. How someone travels, or where someone goes, does not affect whether they are a refugee.
International law acknowledges that someone seeking asylum may need to use a route normally deemed irregular.
A refugee shouldn’t be punished for crossing the channel in a small boat or stowing away in a lorry.
In many countries they pass through, although they may be safe from the persecution they fled, refugees will face other insecurities and dangers.
- being street homeless
- being detained in a camp or detention centre
- hate crimes and harassment
- police brutality
- insecure legal status
- no access to employment
- no access to healthcare
Being safe from the initial persecution they fled only to live in squalor, fear or insecurity is not good enough.
Refugees need to be able to rebuild their lives and some will keep moving until they are able to do so.
Some people will try and reach family and friends in other countries, seeking people they know and trust.
Refugees fleeing former colonies may feel a strong connection to the UK, can speak English and there are often large networks of people from their country in the UK to help ease the transition to a new life.
Not all holiday destinations provide refugees with the safety and security they need. The view might look pretty to a tourist, but the reality for a refugee could be police brutality, detention, hate crime and hunger.
In order to thrive and feel safe, refugees need legal rights, somewhere safe to stay and food amongst other things.
Security requires a stable income in order to buy food, clothes and other necessary items. A stable income requires access to the labour market and opportunities for employment, or welfare benefits. Children need to be able to access education. Medical care needs to be accessible.
Living in a tent, in a camp, or in a detention centre, with uncertainty about how you can build a new life for yourself, unable to speak the language, separated from friends and family, is simply not the same thing as a two week all-inclusive, sun and sea package with your friends.
🏨 Someone who has claimed asylum can apply for an allowance and a place to live. The allowance amounts to £5.66 per day, and housing is in a location of the government’s choosing. This can mean shared housing, placement in hotel accommodation or disused barracks, which have been widely criticised due to dehumanising and unsanitary conditions.
It is far from true that people seeking asylum come to the UK to receive large handouts from the state. In fact, most know nothing about welfare benefits before they arrive and do not expect to receive financial support.
💷 Almost all people seeking asylum are forbidden from working. Existing on a meager £5.66 per day means they cannot save money to become self-sufficient, pay deposits for accommodation, and can only afford the bare essentials while they await a decision on their claim, which can take many years.
It not uncommon for people that have claimed asylum to fall into destitution. Asylum seeking women who are destitute are particularly vulnerable to violence in the UK. More than a fifth of the women accessing our therapeutic services had experienced sexual violence in this country.
There are lots of reasons why you’ll see more young men in camps in Greece or Calais and crossing the sea in small boats.
In war zones, young men are at risk of military conscription, and may be forced to try to escape if they are opposed to fighting.
It’s not safe for anyone, but women who try to make this journey are especially vulnerable to violence and sexual exploitation.
If a family can only afford to send one person away to safety, they might pick a younger man.
The journey to reach the UK is usually very dangerous. Men sometimes travel ahead alone, in the hope that their families can join them later. 90% of the people who come to the UK to join relatives under refugee family reunion rules are women and children.
What would you do if this were your family?