‘Obsession’ with statistics masks the truth about seeking asylum

The media is “obsessed” with asylum seeker statistics and has
failed to paint an accurate picture as to why people are fleeing to
the UK, the Immigration Advisory Service’s (IAS) chief executive
told the House of Commons home affairs committee last week.

“One of the problems is the obsession with numbers and statistics,”
said Keith Best, adding that it was rare for asylum seekers to be
portrayed as individuals who had suffered persecution. “That’s
where the media have failed. They have failed to articulate why
asylum seekers are fleeing and the general public follow the lead
and talk about numbers.”

Best’s comments came just a week after Community Care
launched its 2003 campaign, Right to Refuge: a Fair Deal for Asylum
Seekers and Refugees. A key aim of the campaign is to
counterbalance the negative portrayal of asylum seekers in the
media and challenge the atmosphere of hysteria and racism.

In written evidence, Best criticised the asylum system, claiming
that the management of asylum applications and appeals “remains
very poor” and citing problems including “enormous” communication
problems between and within the bodies responsible for different
aspects of the process.

He also said that, although there was a fast-track process for
those asylum seekers whose claims were likely to be unfounded,
there was not a fast process for those likely to remain.

He added: “The calibre of decision-making is poor because
insufficient investment is put into it.” He cited inadequate
training, insufficient time spent on claims, and a lack of contact
by the decision-maker with individual claimants.

The IAS has made several recommendations aimed at dealing with the
backlog of around 30,000 applications.

The charity proposes more training for caseworkers and
specialisation of caseworkers by country both addressing problems
highlighted by Community Care‘s survey of practitioners
working with asylum seekers (news analysis, page 18, 29 May). It
also proposes the granting of status for claimants trapped in the
backlog for more than three years.

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