Busting the Myths About the New Wave of Asylum Seekers

Asylum seekers often get a bad rap in the UK, but many of the myths and theories surrounding them aren’t true. To find out why you’ve been assuming wrong, read on…

One of the hottest topics in the UK, both past and present, is immigration, refugees and asylum seekers. Asylum seekers and refugees have been keeping London immigration lawyers busy for decades, as they help them achieve citizenship status in the UK. But why is this such a controversial topic?

Common myths about immigrants and asylum seekers taking our jobs, claiming our benefits and filling up every inch of the country are perpetuated daily in the UK. In this post we’re going to address some of these myths and reveal the truth behind them.

But before we do that, we’re going to tell you what asylum seekers are and explain why their numbers have increased over the past few years. So, to blow your preconceptions out of the water, read on…

What are Asylum Seekers?

Asylum seekers are people who arrive in a country and request asylum due to troubles and life-threatening dangers within their own country. They are considered asylum seekers until the UK government decides whether or not they are a refugee.

Unfortunately, asylum seekers have less rights than refugees and British citizens, a good example being the fact that they’re not allowed to work. 

The right to seek asylum is the legal right of all humans on this planet, including yourself, and it isn’t considered illegal. The only thing it really means is that you haven’t yet proved your need protection as a refugee in the country you’ve sought asylum in.

How and Why Are More Asylum Seekers Coming to the UK’s Shores?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’ll have noticed stories about asylum seekers landing on the shores of Kent, Cornwall and Devon from various ports in France.

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The number of small boats crossing the Channel has increased significantly over the last few years, but the attempt for asylum seekers to enter the UK is nothing new. Many have tried to enter by jumping on trains and hiding in lorries over the years.

To put the number of people seeking asylum in this way into perspective, only an estimated 1,892 arrived in the UK on small boats out of 35,566 total last year. The top four countries seeking asylum in the year ending March 2020 were:

  • Iran
  • Albania
  • Iraq
  • Pakistan

Despite there being a lot of Iranians and Iraqis in northern France looking to travel to the UK for asylum, those from Pakistan and the Congo are less likely to use this route. They’re far more likely to travel by plane using false documentation.

Most of these asylum seekers are risking their lives travelling in small boats to get to the UK because they are from some of the world’s worst conflict zones. Their countries have appalling human rights records and they know that the UK will help them.

What Are the Myths Surrounding Asylum Seekers in the UK?

Now that we have an idea of what asylum seekers are, and how/why they’re coming to the UK, it’s time to dispel some of the myths surrounding them.

Myth #1: There are too many refugees and asylum seekers coming to the UK

This myth is one of the most popular ones. It’s based on the premise that too many asylum seekers and refugees are coming to the UK and we don’t have the capacity.

National newspapers use phrases like ‘enormous rise’ or ‘huge numbers’ to make it appear as though the number of asylum seekers we’re taking in is too high. 

The truth of the matter is, the number of asylum seekers and refugees we take into the UK is relatively small. Most of the world’s refugees are taken in by developing countries – 84 percent, in fact, according to the World Economic Forum.

Out of those seeking asylum in the EU, the UK only make up 6 percent of all first-time asylum seeker applications in 2018. Compare this with 28 percent for Germany and 19 percent for France, and the notion that we take in too many asylum seekers seems ludicrous.

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Myth #2: Allowing people seeking asylum to work will encourage more to come

We mentioned earlier that asylum seekers aren’t allowed to work in the UK, at least until they gain refugee status. The reason work is restricted is because of an apparent “pull-factor” that would encourage people to come here in search of work instead of protection. 

Again, this is not true. Many studies, including one commissioned by the Home Office, have shown that access to work for asylum seekers has little effect on where they choose to go. In fact, a report by Lift the Ban found no credible evidence whatsoever of this claim. 

It’s more the case that people who are seeking asylum pick their destination based on language, colonial links, having family or friends there, or a belief that the country is safe, tolerant and democratic. 

It was also shown in the Lift the Ban report, that asylum seekers rarely have knowledge of their host country’s economic policies before they arrive there. 

With this myth busted, we would be able to adopt a six-month waiting period before the asylum seekers could work. This would mimic what Spain, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, and Switzerland do. This would bring benefits to our economy and help the asylum seekers greatly.

Myth #3: Refugees must claim asylum in the first safe country they land in

People who don’t want migrants to travel from places like France and Italy to the UK cite the fact that refugees have to seek asylum in the first safe country they arrive at. This allows people who don’t want asylum seekers to come to the UK to blame other countries in Europe for breaking the law and not hosting the refugees themselves.

The problem with this argument is, there is no such law. Under the rules put in place by the UN Refugee Convention, which the UK became a part of in the 1950s, there is no obligation for asylum seekers to settle in the first safe country they come across. 

Not only that, UK case law supports this exact interpretation of UN rules. This means asylum seekers can pass through as many safe countries as they want before they make their claim of asylum.

There was even a case in 2011 where the European Court of Human Rights allowed an asylum seeker to seek asylum in Belgium after claiming he was at risk in Greece due to its insufficient asylum system.

Myth #4: Seeking asylum in the UK by small boat is illegal

This is a more recent myth, spawned from the idea that coming over to the UK on a small boat from France, or anywhere, is illegal. It turns out that those making this claim had some assistance from Boris Johnson, who said in August that crossing the English Channel was a “very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do”

While the crossing of the Channel in a small, unauthorised vehicle isn’t technically legal, there is nothing stopping them from claiming asylum once they’re here.

One of the reasons we’re seeing more boats in the first place is because of COVID-19 closing other routes to passengers and halting the government’s refugee resettlement scheme. Under these circumstances, the boats are coming here as a last resort.

It shouldn’t matter how asylum seekers travel to the UK, as long as they are able to get here and away from the dangerous countries they fled from. 

Also, it should be noted that those who come to the UK in boats aren’t jumping the queue of those who are travelling to the UK via legitimate means. Each claim is assessed on its own validity and mode of transportation isn’t a deciding factor.