Perspective: Time to End the Blame Culture regarding Asylum; It Is the Issue That Everyone Seemingly Has an Opinion on, but Few Genuinely Understand. Ndey Sosseh, a Foreign National Studying in England, Finds the Whole Asylum and Immigration Debate Frustrating

Article excerpt

Byline: Ndey Sosseh

Large numbers of people in Britain don't understand the difference between asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.

The average person, largely due to false and sensational media hype, seems to believe that almost all foreign nationals are either illegal immigrants or asylum seekers which begs the question: are we as informed as we like to think we are?

Briefly, asylum seekers are fleeing for their lives from harsh and oppressive regimes and severe ethnic conflict. Asylum seekers are not allowed to claim mainstream welfare benefits and well over 50 per cent of asylum seekers are given permission to stay in this country.

By definition, there is no such thing as an 'illegal asylum seeker'; the UK has signed the 1951 Convention on Refugees, which means that by law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in the UK and can remain here until a final decision on their asylum application has been made.

The fact that an asylum seeker may have entered the country illegally does not mean their case lacks credibility.

Illegal immigrants are people who stay in the country illegally, for example after deceiving an immigration officer by using false documents; entering in breach of a deportation order or entering by clandestine means, for example, by hiding themselves in freight lorries.

Their cases are also fully investigated before a decision is made on whether they are allowed to stay.

It is true that a lot of people come to Britain, especially England, as freeloaders, thinking the benefits system, something unheard of in most developing countries, is a fantastic opportunity.

Coming from The Gambia, a largely poor country where the average person earns about pounds 40 a month, I can understand why many want to leave their homeland. Not only were we colonised by Great Britain, but English is the only international language we master.

Some come here thinking it is their right, believing Britain owes it to them after decades of profit earned from human trafficking, diamond, gold, oil and other raw materials during the slave trade, colonialism and now neo-colonialism.

Try telling the average Gambian or any other asylum seeker they are better off in their home country when they can tell you horror stories of political and religious persecution, hunger, poverty, forced marriages.

Neither England nor any other country necessarily has a duty to encourage with open arms would-be asylum seekers.

But since globalisation has made it easy for the West to invest and operate large industries and multi-nationals, especially in developing countries, surely it is only fair the needy from these countries are properly catered for?

As a student journalist, I am sometimes appalled by the indifference of certain sections of the British media who are so immersed in their 'blame culture' that they end up casting a shroud over all immigrants, thus failing the British public in their role as informers and educators.

By concentrating on only the negative aspects of immigration, the public are fed a daily diet, mainly from the tabloids, of 'savage, illiterate foreigners' who want to take over Great Britain.

This certainly isn't the case. Not only has this angered immigrants who have legally lived and worked in the countryfor several years, but it has also made them feel that their contributions, sometimes quite significant, are greatly overlooked.

Foreign students like myself believe we are not getting a fair deal. We pay vast amounts of money to study here -in some cases almost 700 per cent more than British students. …