Asylum Seekers: The Myths a Funny Old Week

Article excerpt


RIGHT-WING politicians and newspapers are making political capital out of asylum seekers. They see them as an easy target and use scaremongering soundbites and headlines as a quick fix for their falling votes and sales. Today Sunday Mail Political Editor LINDSAY McGARVIE examines the 10 most common myths being pumped out by the Right's propaganda machine.

1 ASYLUM seekers come to Britain looking for the good life.

REALITY: The majority come from countries in the grip of civil war or widespread human rights abuses, such as Yugoslavia, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. They are asylum seekers for a number of reasons, ranging from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo to religious persecution by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

2 THE Government hands over excessive amounts of money to asylum seekers.

REALITY: They survive on vouchers worth just 70 per cent of Income Support rates. They are entitled to only pounds 10 in cash. Only certain shops accept the vouchers and they are barred from giving change. In places like Sighthill, Glasgow, there is nowhere local for them to pick up their vouchers, so they have to walk miles or use vital cash to get them.

3 BRITAIN is the number one destination in the world for asylum seekers.

REALITY: Less than one per cent of the world's asylum seekers come to Britain. According to the latest UN figures, Germany received 27,236 applications for asylum in the first four months of 2001. The UK received 22,700. In the league table of the 27 leading countries, America was third with 19,858. All three pale beside Cairo, Egypt, which is in chaos after receiving two million refugees from across Africa in recent years.

4 ASYLUM seekers are given better accommodation than locals.

REALITY: They are housed in hard-to-let, empty accommodation in places like Glasgow's Sighthill or Red Road, with basic but clean furniture and fittings. These are areas already suffering from social problems and chronic unemployment. As has been seen in Sighthill, those seeking refugee status often become the target for physical and racial abuse from small sections of the community who believe the myth that asylum seekers are living in five-star luxury.

5 BRITAIN is flooded with what the Tories labelled "bogus" asylum seekers.

REALITY: Last year, 77,000 asylum seekers were initially refused official refugee status in the UK, but the vast majority were not deported, as they come from countries with oppressive regimes such as China, Iran and Iraq, which could persecute them on their return. …