Fact & Fiction: Debunking Myths


There are many myths surrounding refugees and asylum seekers which damage their cause in the UK and abroad. Part of what STAR aims to do is to eradicate these myths, and promote correct information about refugees and asylum seekers. Here are some of the myths and their corresponding truths:

MYTH: “Asylum seekers come to Britain to get benefits”
TRUTH: Most people seeking asylum have no idea they can get financial help from the government.
Asylum seekers do not have permission to work in the UK.
The top ten refugee producing countries in 2011 all have poor human rights records or ongoing conflict.
Asylum seekers are fleeing from these conflicts and abuses, looking for safety.
Many refugees and asylum seekers hope to return home at some point in the future, if the situation in their country has improved.

MYTH: “Asylum seekers get more benefits than British pensioners”
TRUTH: Asylum seekers cannot claim mainstream benefits.
A single adult asylum seeker receives £36.62 a week.
A single unemployed UK citizen of the same age would receive £67.50, plus other benefits they may be able to receive.
Asylum seekers do not qualify for council housing tenancy or housing benefit.

MYTH: “It’s easy for anyone to claim and be granted asylum in the UK”
TRUTH: The UK asylum system is strictly controlled and complex. It is very difficult to get asylum.
The decision-making process is extremely tough and many people’s claims are rejected.
Initial Home Office decision-making remains poor. In 2011, the courts overturned Home Office decisions in 26% of asylum appeals.
There is a particular problem with decisions on women’s claims. A 2011 study found 50% of negative decisions were overturned by the courts.
There were 19,804 asylum applications to the UK in 2011. This the second lowest level in 10 years.
Since 2005 most people recognised as refugees are only given permission to stay in the UK for five years and can have their case reviewed at any time. This makes it difficult for them to make decisions about their future, to find work and make definite plans for their life in the UK.
The Home Office detains around 1,000 children seeking asylum with their families each year.

MYTH: “Europe looks after most of the world’s refugees”
TRUTH:  About 80% of the world’s refugees are living in developing countries, often in camps. Africa and Asia between them host more than three quarters of the world’s refugees. Europe looks after just 15%.
The UK is home to less than 2% of the world’s refugees – out of more than 15 million worldwide.
Over 490,000 refugees have fled the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo, including about 15,000 in 2011, Only 188 of these people applied for asylum in the UK in 2011.
The likelihood that a refugee will be recognised as having protection needs and granted status depends on the country where they apply for asylum. In the UK in 2010, 25% of the people who applied for asylum were granted it. In some countries, such as Switzerland and Finland, over 70% of applications succeed.

MYTH: “Asylum seekers can jump the queue for housing and choose where they want to live”
TRUTH: Asylum seekers do not qualify for council housing tenancy or housing benefit.
Asylum seekers do not jump the queue for council housing and they cannot choose where they live. The accommodation allocated to them is not paid for by the local council.
It is nearly always ‘hard to let’ properties, where other people do not want to live.

MYTH: “Asylum seekers contribute significantly to crime in this country”
TRUTH: The vast majority of people seeking asylum are law abiding people.
Many destitute refused asylum seekers fear approaching the police to report incidents of sexual harassment and assaults, avoiding contact for fear of being picked up, put in detention and deported.
Immigration officers have the power to detain asylum seekers, even if they have not committed any crime.

MYTH: “Refugees contribute nothing to this country”
TRUTH: Immigrants, including refugees, pay more into the public purse compared to their UK born counterparts.
An estimated 30,000 jobs have been created in Leicester by Ugandan Asian refugees since 1972.
About 1,200 medically qualified refugees are recorded on the British Medical Association’s database
It is estimated that it costs around £25,000 to support a refugee doctor to practise in the UK. Training a new doctor is estimated to cost between £200,000 and £250,000.
Asylum-seeking children contribute very positively to schools across the country. This in turn enables more successful integration of families into local communities.

You may hear some people saying or suggesting that seeking asylum should not be regarded as a human right, perhaps for some of the ‘reasons’ or myths shown above. However, these ideas are often backed by incorrect information and misguided ideas. We at STAR aim to educate people on the issues surrounding refugees and asylum seekers.

The 1951 Refugee Convention guarantees everybody the right to apply for asylum. It has saved millions of lives. No country has ever withdrawn from it.

Information, figures and statistics from:

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