A soft touch?

Before I start I would like to emphasise that this is my personal opinion and does not represent the views of the Conservative Party, also I would like to apologise for the rant I am about to have.

Now that is done with I can begin, the issue which I am discussing today is Asylum Seekers and Britain’s apparent ‘soft touch’ towards them. I think it is staggering how people can claim that Britain is a soft touch on Asylum Seekers. In the preparation of my dissertation (which is on the delicate issue of perceptions of refugees and Asylum seekers in the UK) I have discovered that the majority of people have a misinformed view about Britain’s policy towards Asylum Seekers, arguing that we let too many in and that once here they have a free ride. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I would like to tell many of you out there who may not be aware of the complex policies Britain currently has on Asylum Seekers, in the hope to disprove the ‘soft touch’ argument. For example, in 1996 the Asylum and Immigration Act denied certain classes of asylum applicants access to social security and legal aid (surely access to legal aid is a basic human right), this was introduced to remove an incentive for many seeking asylum. Furthermore, the Immigration Act of 2005, now states that anyone who wishes to seek asylum in this country has to get a visa from the country which they are leaving. How outrageous is this? Lets take as an example, an MDC activist from Zimbabwe who needs to leave out of fear for his life, to get an asylum in Britain he would have to get a visa from Robert Mugabe’s Government; the very people that are trying to kill him!

Is it just me or does this sound ridiculous? However, it hasn’t always been like this. Before the turn of the last century Britain was regarded as a place which refugees could easily come to and feel welcome. This is half of the problem, people argue that refugees are a burden, many of these refugees are highly trained and want to work. The law however, limits their ability to do this. For example, in the first year of living in the UK a successful asylum applicant cannot apply for a job (due to further processing in their application). Moreover, they are only eligible for 25% of the benefits which a British unemployed citizen could apply for, this works to around £20 per week. Crime is inevitable under such a system!

To make the situation worse, asylum seekers are never located usually anywhere south of Birmingham. This subsequently means that they are placed in areas of low unemployment and high racial tension resulting in dangerous consequences for our communities. I am not saying that there is not an immigration problem nor a problem with bogus asylum seekers. All of these are real problems and issues which need to be resolved. However, our policies (and this is a national not partisan problem, these often cruel rules span all parties) could be said to have broken basic human rights and denied access to people trying to escape genuine hardship.

The Government would argue that harsher restriction policies are needed to cope with the economic demands of asylum seekers. Why not use them, they want to work, the majority of them came here to give not take. Finally, although the economic burden is a reasonable argument, could it be argued that in preventing economic burden we have in fact betrayed the values previous Britons have fought and died for in Two World Wars and countless other wars? And more importantly can you put a price on someone’s life?

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2 thoughts on “A soft touch?

  1. A few points of information may be useful here: visas are issued by the UK embassy in the country concerned, not that country’s government, which however would usually have to have issued a national passport; it is not successful applicants that are barred from working, but those whose applications are being processed; and asylum-seeker support is currently £35 a week plus accommodation, for those that get it. But I agree with the main points, asylum-seekers should be allowed to work, should be given a fair hearing, and above all treated with dignity, and you are quite right that this is a cross-party issue.

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