Waverley Hotel – Dispelling Myths about People Seeking Asylum

Article author Liam smiles at the camera. He is dual-heritage and wears a bright yellow t-shirt.Author: Liam Beecher

The possibility that a Whitehaven town centre hotel – The Waverley – will be used to temporarily house people seeking asylum, has triggered some backlash from local residents. Therefore this could be an appropriate time to dispel some common myths and challenges about people seeking asylum.

 

“People seeking asylum can’t be vetted” 

This is NOT true. If an individual makes an application for asylum in the UK, you need to self-present to the Home Office- either by informing an immigration official, making a telephone appointment, or self-presenting at the screening unit in Croydon. During this process, their photograph and (if over 16) fingerprints will be recorded. Without doing this, that person will be unable to claim asylum and will be deemed to be in the UK illegally. If the Home Office believes an individual to be a security/absconsion risk, or deems it likely that a person’s asylum claim will be denied, they can be detained in an ‘Immigration Removal Centre.’ These centres are like prisons, and currently people seeking asylum can be detained indefinitely.  

 

“The crime rate increases with more refugees” 

This is also NOT true. UK-based evidence is admittedly difficult to find, but research has shown that in the US, areas with higher concentrations of recent immigrants have been found to have reduced levels of homicide and robbery. In the UK, rates of property crime are lower now than in 1983, despite an increase in the proportion of the foreign-born population, and this has shown no difference in the level of violent crime. Additionally, foreign nationals are less likely to report being a victim of a crime (The Migration Observatory) 

 

“The UK takes in too many refugees” 

Firstly, it is important to distinguish the difference between a refugee and a person seeking asylum. Amnesty International define an ‘Asylum Seeker’ as “a person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country, but who hasn’t yet been legally recognized as a refugee and is waiting to receive a decision on their asylum claim.” A refugee is simply somebody who has been given the legal right to remain in a country. 

 

As for the claim that the UK takes ‘too many’ refugees, people who originally came to the UK to seek asylum made up an estimated 0.6% of the UK’s total resident population in 2019 (GM Law) The UK does not even break the top 5 in terms of countries who house the most refugees, with Turkey being the leading nation.

In addition…

4 out of 5 refugees remain in the region of displacement, with an estimated 84% of global refugees being hosted by developing countries (Amnesty International) 

 

“They only come here for the benefits/housing” 

People seeking asylum are not entitled to benefits on arrival to the UK. 

If they are destitute (homeless and without any money) then they can apply for asylum accommodation and support. The amount of money is set as low as possible to try to deter people from coming to the UK. Currently it’s £40.85 a week – just £5.84 a day to cover food, travel, clothing, and communication. Despite a narrative of the UK having a ‘pull factor’- which has been peddled by the UK Government themselves, when asked for evidence of this the Home Office has declined.  

People seeking asylum are not entitled to Council or Housing Association housing. Asylum accommodation has only to be adequate and can be anywhere in the UK. people seeking asylum don’t have a choice where they go. If a person is granted asylum and become a  refugee, their housing application is then treated identically to any other British citizen.  

 

“Why not use the legal routes of entry” 

The UK offers a resettlement scheme for those already defined as refugees- for example, the Syrian scheme that has been in place since 2014, or the Ukrainian scheme more recently.  

However, there are currently NO SAFE AND LEGAL ROUTES into the UK for people seeking asylum. It is not possible to make an asylum claim until you arrive in the country. For many of these people, despite fleeing war-torn environments, they are not classed as refugees until their asylum application is reviewed. Many of these people have lost their homes, displaced into an unknown region, and no longer possess any of their belongings. Even if they had a passport, there is a high likelihood that it has been lost or destroyed. Therefore, in an environment where it is not as simple as getting on a plane to the UK, it is impossible to be given refugee status and subsequently use legal routes of entry into the country. This is why you see so many desperate people making the life-threatening journey into the UK on undocumented boats.  

Further reading > Article on Immigration, Refugees and People Seeking Asylum

SOURCES: 

Home Office- Screening and routing.docx (publishing.service.gov.uk) 

Right to Remain UK- What Happens When You Claim Asylum – Right to Remain 

The Conversation- Immigration and crime, is there a link? (theconversation.com) 

The Migration Observatory- Immigration and crime, is there a link? (theconversation.com) 

Asylum and refugee resettlement in the UK – Migration Observatory – The Migration Observatory (ox.ac.uk) 

Amnesty International- Refugees, Asylum-seekers and Migrants – Amnesty International 

Greater Manchester Law- Asylum seeker mythbuster: 6 myths about asylum in the UK – Greater Manchester Law Centre (gmlaw.org.uk)