Challenging the vitriol

The refuge offered by a country to those who seek help in times
of terrible danger is a touchstone by which any pretensions to
social inclusion, compassion, concern for human rights, equality of
opportunity and a fight against discrimination can be judged.

It is a touchstone for our society’s adherence to social care

And that is why our treatment of asylum seekers is important to
everyone in social care, whether they work directly with them or

Community Care‘s campaign for 2003 aims to give a voice to
our readers who are disgusted by the tide of vitriol in the media
and who believe that the atmosphere of hysteria surrounding the
asylum issue is damaging to individuals and communities.

As this week’s front cover indicates, we want to challenge the
prevailing myths with facts and urge our readers to help us. It is
simply wrong to state that the majority of asylum applicants are
proved to be “bogus”. In fact, up to 71 per cent of applicants are
either accepted initially, accepted on appeal or rejected purely on
procedural grounds.

It is false to claim that the UK gets more than its fair share of
asylum seekers. The truth is that the UK takes fewer than 2 per
cent of the world’s asylum seekers. And between 1992 and 2001, the
UK ranked 11th in the European Union for total refugee

Nor is it true that the UK offers the most generous benefits to
asylum seekers in the European Union. Asylum seekers may receive
£37.77 a week – 30 per cent below the UK poverty line. In a
report studying 40 organisations working with asylum seekers and
refugees in July 2002, Oxfam and the Refugee Council found that 85
per cent of asylum seekers experience hunger, 95 per cent cannot
afford clothes or shoes and 80 per cent cannot maintain good health
because of poverty.

Asylum seekers are too often seen as nothing but a problem. Yet the
British Medical Association estimates there are about 3,000 refugee
doctors in the UK, and 90 per cent of employers want to take on
refugees to meet skills shortages. In addition, many refugees and
asylum seekers provide support and care for new arrivals in the

Despite the actual and potential benefits asylum seekers and
refugees can bring, and despite the moral and legal obligations
facing the UK, the current debate is focused on deterrence and
control of the asylum “problem”. Our campaign will make clear that
behind every headline or statistic is a human being, often with a
horrific story to tell.

The way we treat asylum seekers would be unthinkable if UK citizens
were subjected to it. They can be detained without trial; even
young children can be locked up. And despite the government’s claim
that it is eager to aid the integration of refugees, its treatment
of asylum seekers – in many cases, the refugees of the future –
makes achieving that aim almost impossible.

In Community Care‘s exclusive survey this week, you can
read what social care professionals have to say about the asylum
system. Read our campaign aims and, if you agree with them, please
sign our petition. A copy is enclosed with the magazine, and you
can also sign online at
 This is only the start. Watch this space for more campaign
activities in the coming months.

Our treatment of asylum seekers strikes at the heart of what social
care stands for. Join our campaign: we can challenge policy and we
can shift the debate.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.