Saturday, 18 April 2009

Why Refugees & Asylum-Seekers?

"Swan eaters! Gun lovers! Housing queue jumpers! Granny thumpers! You name it - asylum seekers and refugees have been called it", which is why Refugee Action set up the nationwide Refugee Awareness Project here.
Please make time to find out more.

I have been volunteering at the Bristol Refugee Rights Drop-in Centre in Easton helping to teach English for almost one year now and it was during the Autumn of last year that i first became aware that many Refugees and Asylum-Seekers have to walk between one to two hours in order to reach the centre, as they are unable to afford public transport. By having a bicycle, they will have more freedom to get to and from the drop-in centre as well as to college and other voluntary work and also elsewhere within the city and it will undoubtedly bring with it greater independence and hopefully make their lives that little bit easier.

It really is so important to make the distinction between those people choosing to come to the UK seeking employment (economic migrants) and those that have been forced here out of fear for their lives - most, if not all, Refugees and Asylum-Seekers have fled their native countries for fear of persecution, torture and possible death. They have an incredibly hard time whilst seeking asylum here in the UK and we are pleased to be helping them in the little way that we can.

A few points:

  • Anyone in the world has the right to seek sanctuary in another country if they are suffering persecution in their home country. ‘Asylum’ is a form of legal protection granted by a state to refugees fleeing persecution. The right to seek asylum in other countries comes from the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and a protocol established in 1967 to extend its scope. A total of 145 countries have signed up to one or both of these, including the UK.
  • The UK only hosts 3% of the global refugee population (and the percentage is the same if you include asylum seekers too).
  • In 2007, the top five countries of origin for asylum applicants to the UK were Afghanistan, Iran, China, Iraq and Eritrea.

  • Most asylum seekers flee to neighbouring countries in the developing world and only a few have the resources to make their way to industrialised countries in Europe or North America. For example, by the end of 2006, 79% of refugees from Africa also found asylum in the same continent.

  • There is technically no such thing as ‘an illegal asylum seeker’ or ‘illegal refugee’. Asylum seekers and refugees are people who are part of a legal process and have made themselves known to the authorities

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