Refugees, Asylum and Immigration: The Facts

Issue section: 

The facts to undermine the racist myths, and useful links for more information.

There is no such person as an 'illegal asylum seeker'. By law, anyone has the right to enter Britain and apply for asylum, and to stay until a final decision has been made. The government is not allowed to penalise a refugee or asylum seeker for having false papers or ID - the 1951 Convention to which Britain is a signatory recognises the difficulty of gathering the correct papers when fleeing war or persecution.

Three out of four asylum seekers are fleeing countries in conflict: Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan have been in the top five sources of refugees for the last three years. In 2003 23 percent of asylum applications were granted, and one in five appeals went in favour of the applicant.

In 2003 there were 1,396,000 overseas workers in Britain and 49,370 asylum applications.

The largest group of people who come to Britain to work are European - 517,000 - and a third of those are Irish. There are more Americans working in Britain than Indians, and 87,000 Australians and New Zealanders are happily residing here; yet the headlines in the Sun and the Express never reflect this.

A Mori poll in 2003 found that respondents believed 23 percent of the world's refugees came to Britain. In reality Asia hosted half of all refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons, with Iran hosting most refugees (1.3 million out of a total 10 million). Britain hosted 270,000 refugees - just 2.8 percent of the total and 0.4 percent of the British population.

Asylum seekers cannot claim mainstream benefits. A single adult must survive on just £38.96 per week - 70 percent of basic income support. A report by Oxfam and the Refugee Council found that 85 percent of asylum seekers experience hunger, 95 percent cannot afford to buy clothes and 80 percent cannot maintain good health. Asylum seekers make up just 0.5 percent of those receiving benefits in Britain.

A Home Office report shows that people born outside the UK contribute 10 percent more to the economy in taxes than they consume in benefits and public services - equivalent to £2.6 billion a year.

Sally Campbell