With the government announcing that the UK will accept 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 and the humanitarian crisis capturing the general public’s attention, ill-informed opinions have taken over much of the debate surrounding our immigration and asylum laws. Many of the “facts” we take as given are either out-dated or incorrect and in order to get to the real facts behind the media flurry of information we have undertaken a myth-busting mission with the results below…
MYTH: The terms “migrants” and “asylum seekers” are interchangeable.
FACT: To be eligible as a refugee you must have left your country and be unable to go back because you fear persecution. Also included in the term asylum seeker are those who are unable to live safely in any part of their country and have failed to get protection from authorities in their country. A migrant on the other hand is a person who moves from one place to another in order to find work or better living conditions. An asylum seeker therefore has no “choice” to come to the UK but is forced through desperate circumstances to flee their own homes and communities.
MYTH: It is easy to claim asylum in the UK.
FACT: Not only do asylum seekers have to establish that they fall within the definition as above before you become eligible but they also have to undergo a screening where they are photographed and their fingerprints taken. An interview will then be undertaken with a caseworker where a potential asylum seeker will have to explain why and how they were persecuted in their own country. Although the standard of proof is a “reasonable likelihood” which is even lower than the civil proof of the balance of probabilities there still has to be a well-founded and future fear that must be proven.
MYTH: The UK has the largest influx of asylum seekers.
FACT: In 2014 Britain was only the sixth highest recipient of asylum claims whilst Germany had the most applications at a staggering 202,815 claims made. Sweden, France, Italy and Hungary were all ahead of the UK in terms of applications made. As shown above the ranging terminology often causes confusion as to who is coming to the UK and staying here. In the same year refugees, pending asylum cases and stateless persons made up just 0.24% of the population showing that in reality the concerns over the “swarms” of people coming to Britain are unfounded especially in light of the fact that the Prime Minister has limited the amount the UK will take to 20,000 by 2020.
MYTH: Asylum seekers take all the benefits.
FACT: Asylum seekers are not able to claim benefits in the conventional way British Citizens are. If they are granted asylum they will be provided with cash support which they have to collect from a local post office each week. The current rate is £36.95 for each person in their household. This is at least half the amount that UK citizens receive if they are over 25 and on job-seekers allowance. Even pregnant mothers only receive an additional £3 per week, hardly an amount which will cripple the Britain’s economy compared with the amount claimed by UK citizens.
MYTH: Asylum seekers take all the properties and jobs.
FACT: Due to the status they have under immigration law, those seeking asylum are randomly allocated housing and have no choice as to where they live. It is unlikely to be in highly populated and also desirable places such as London and the South East.
Whilst waiting for a decision on their application, asylum seekers are not allowed to work. The government states that is because entering the country for economic reasons is not the same as seeking asylum and it is important to separate the two.
MYTH: Once here asylum seekers stay forever.
FACT: Once granted asylum, they are given permission to remain in the UK for 5 years only, after which they have to undertake a new immigration process whereby they apply for indefinite leave to remain. Out of a total 105,874 grants to stay permanently in the UK made within the year ending March 2015, only 18,452 of those originally came to the UK for asylum.
Ultimately, all of us have probably had misconceptions about the facts on immigration and asylum but as the humanitarian crisis continues, the least we can do is understand the reality of asylum claims in the UK.