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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Is the government treating asylum seekers fairly?
Asylum seekers in Britain could be housed in as many as 15 accommodation centres, despite an angry response from residents in the locations chosen for the three pilot "villages".
The government plans to house up to 750 people awaiting decisions on asylum applications in the centres at Throckmorton, in Worcestershire, RAF Newton, in Nottinghamshire, and at Bicester, Oxfordshire.
Home Office Minister of State Lord Rooker announced the plans, saying the government wanted to speed up the asylum process, which deals with up to 1,500 claims a week.
One refugee group is warning the plans are a "recipe for racial tension" but Downing Street says it is not "dumping people on the countryside with no facilities".
Are asylum "villages" the right way to speed up the asylum process? Is the government treating asylum seekers fairly?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Any genuine asylum seeker arriving in this country would put up with short-term incarceration whilst their identity is established and acceptability ascertained. If anything, the UK consulate office in Paris should set up a separate office to get applicants photographed, DNA tested and have iris scans. Those who are accepted would be given a special card which can act as a temporary passport and proof of ID at our benefit offices. By doing that, any "asylum seeker" found in this country without the necessary card or not matching the credentials shown can be deported to the previous country of departure.
It appears many so called 'asylum seekers' are willing to pay thousands of pounds to get to this country. Things can't be so bad in their own country if they can get their hands on such an amount. I would find it impossible to raise that kind of money even if my life depended on it.
A lot of you are saying that asylum seekers are clearly economic migrants. Where are your facts to back up this claim? With all the wars going on in the world today I sincerely doubt this.
Will the proponents of open borders and a free flow for immigration also be providing their homes as accommodation for those arriving into this country?
After reading the comments placed here, it is clear to me that the majority of people do not want any more asylum seekers or illegal immigrants in this country. Everyone I speak to feels the same. I have yet to speak to anyone who is in favour of them. So, why is it that the Government and politicians do not carry out the wishes of its electors. In the last budget we were told that we have to pay out more in our national insurance contributions towards the National Health Service, fine if that is where it is going. What would have been the reaction if the Government had said, we want you to pay extra taxes and this money is to house even more asylum seekers. The amount of money raised must come close to the amount needed to build these new camps!
If the government is unwilling to carry out the views of the majority, maybe the BBC could produce a programme expressing them ?
Nasir Nabi, Newcastle, UK
This Government is bending over backwards to ensure that asylum seekers are treated the best in all of Europe, hence the attractiveness of the UK as a destination. The vast majority of claimants are economic migrants abusing the system at the expense of genuine refugees. The sooner we crack down hard on bogus claims, the sooner we will fulfil our international obligations to those who are genuinely fleeing persecution and who desperately need our help. Anyone arriving here from another EU country should be automatically barred from claiming asylum.
I find it hard to understand how the Government claim they can't afford to build new prisons when they are prepared to spend money on asylum centres which wouldn't be needed if asylum cases were processed quicker and there were tighter controls preventing illegal immigration! There is also a severe housing shortage so I can see trouble in the next decade unless things change.
The number of immigrants received by the UK is dwarfed by the numbers received by far poorer countries such as Rwanda. And to claim that there is an immigration "problem" shows a flawed understanding of the economy, which needs a constant influx of young, skilled workers, which asylum seekers are (60% possessing a degree and 33% speaking 3 or more languages).
To Chris Gower, for your information Chris nearly every educated person I meet in Australia is disgusted and ashamed with the present government's attitudes and methods with regards to asylum seekers and detention camps where they are locked up and treated like dogs. And to Tim Mills - would you have the bottle to personally tell a penniless Afghan "illegal immigrant" and his family face to face that he can't stay in your country - the fifth richest in the World - because they will be a drain on the National Health Service? No? Thought not.
And to all these people saying "let's look after our own first" - how much of your pocket-full of change did you give the last time you saw a homeless person on the street? Or did you just walk by sheepishly, on your way to the restaurant or pub, pretending not to see them and quietly thinking "get a job!"? I trust all these people are also regular contributors to the Salvation Army or some similar organisation.
To those who wish to use the phrase "Where is your heart?", I think there is an implied stipulation that the host countries (e.g. Australia, UK, US, etc.) are somehow obligated to subordinate the priorities of the native peoples already living on the land to the priorities of those who wish to enter the land illegally and without welcome, resources, or sponsors. In my opinion, their hearts are exactly where hearts should be: upon a foundation of common sense and fairness; recognizing that we as humans are better off cleaning our own houses before letting the neighbours in because the neighbours claim our houses are bigger, richer, warmer, and far more luxurious. The Australians are correctly and righteously placing the lives and identities and safety of their own people before attempting to placate the illegals.
No, we do not treat Asylum Seekers fairly. They are people who wish to come and live in this country, and they should be free to do so - along with anybody else wishing to come here. End of story.
There is no logic to any "national" boundaries - they are just defendable strips to protect the economic interests of the people who happen to be behind them at the time. And most "nations" in the world do not occupy the same boundaries that they occupied 100 - or even 50 years ago - if they existed as such at all!
Globalisation is moving us all towards the free movement of goods, away from tariffs and quotas; and towards the free movement of investment. Economics is about the efficient use of Land (natural resources and raw materials), Labour and Capital. If there is free movement of two of these, why not of the third?
I really sympathise with the true refugee. I believe we should offer them shelter and food, until such times as they can look after themselves, but nothing more, if they were true refugees they would be thankful for small mercies. I returned to the U.K. some years ago and was temporarily unemployed, I could get nothing from the government because my stamps were not up to date. Some of these so called refugees have never paid any stamps, yet expect all the benefits.
My partner and I work very hard but manage to earn enough to pay for our home and living. The identical house next to us is used to house asylum seekers. On speaking to my neighbours, they told me they were from the Czech Republic. When I went to Prague for a weekend, standards of living seemed the same as London, if not better, and the city was very commercially vibrant with no evidence of inhumane conditions.
I think that many of the points of view raised here reek of typical British ignorance (not on my doorstep mate, mentality). By scapegoating refugees/immigrants/illegal immigrants we are just relieving the Government of its responsibility to sort out the mess this country is in.
Enough is enough. The British are renown for being reticent with their feelings but I do not know of anyone who is happy with the current state of affairs. Stop forcing unwanted asylum seekers upon us. Stop worrying about their needs when there are pressing concerns here anyway.
As I see it every country in the developed and 'civilized' world has an obligation to provide asylum for those in genuine need. There would not be a problem at all in the public's eyes if there was a worldwide or at least Europe-wide agreement of quotas. A central European asylum seekers bureau could be set up and the allocations and quotas agreed there with representatives from all EU countries. I think asylum seekers would get a much fairer deal and receive a far warmer welcome.
The problem in the UK, as everybody who lives there knows, is that the system for dealing with asylum seekers doesn't work. Here in Germany they are happy to take asylum seekers, and during the problems in the Balkans they took thousands. However, when the problems were over the people had to go home. How many asylum seekers in the UK that have had their request to stay refused have gone home? Not many I guess, and that is the crux of the problem.
Martin Hart, England
Asylum villages are basically a sensible idea. The specialist services & schooling needed will be easily available. However putting 750 predominantly young men in a rural area with no work, no equivalent female population, very little to do and free to wander around all day, is a recipe for disaster. If I were in the local community, I would be very very concerned.
I also suspect the rate of absconding will be extremely high.
If we are going to build holding centres, let us do so in the nearest safe country to where these asylum seekers come from (e.g. Pakistan, Turkey). Their applications can be processed there and, if successful, we can fly them in and help them. We simply cannot keep allowing a flood of mainly economic migrants to pour into the country without it ending up in bloodshed and violence. This government better start taking notice of what the electorate are shouting at it or they will find themselves on the opposition benches again for a very long time!
Like most British people, I welcome true immigrants from any country, who go through the legal processes and bring sorely-needed skills to Britain, like teaching, nursing, and engineering. They come here because they love Britain and want to be British.
Illegal immigrants are totally different, they come here and expect free translators, free housing and feeding, free healthcare, and they contribute nothing in return to their generous hosts, the British taxpayer. It's time for a crackdown on this abuse of the system - everyone in the country without a legitimate reason to be here must be repatriated immediately, and the borders secured.
I am the first person who welcomes the idea of helping people fleeing persecution. However, I feel we are still far too soft on immigration. The government should make a law to fine companies employing illegal immigrants. We should place those awaiting adjudication in secure centres where they cannot leave (this may seem harsh, but if people are really fleeing persecution, would they really find this so tough whilst their case is being evaluated?) Finally if the French are not prepared to police their side of the Chunnel, why don't we ask them if we can help, and put the army in over there to sort out a situation which is completely out of hand.
Cynics say governments only take action to secure votes - if they don't act on this one quickly they are going to lose a lot of votes.
There is never any mention of the tens of thousands of legally registered, tax-paying spouses who cannot get British passports because of the collapse of the Immigration Service. Last autumn, my wife (who also happens to be Russian) was told she would have to wait 3 months to get her passport. This has now been extended from 12 months to an estimated 18 months. Legally abiding, tax-payers like us have no powerful lobby group to put our case forward and are ignored by our own government. Economic migrants have it easy - free everything and no taxes.
The present British government is ignoring the wishes of their people and the only solution is to vote them out of office. Legal immigration is the only way to deal with the problem.
Ian Sykes, UK
Asylum villages are a good idea. However, I'd also suggest that the government spend my taxes further by having cinemas so they can enjoy British films, and in case they get bored at night, discos with free drinks. Oh, how about throwing in something like Alton Towers in too so that the British people won't feel excluded?
We hear about asylum this and asylum that all the time on the news. Look at the French Government - they aren't prepared to do what it takes just to have a part measure they don't want the asylum seekers in their country so they set up a camp just outside the Channel Tunnel and almost give them the equipment to get into the UK. When I moved to London I had to earn and work hard for all of my belongings but one of my work places were right next to some asylum seeker houses, they got new cars, new kitchen equipment new beds, not that I resent that if they were being persecuted in their own country not just coming over here cause of economic reasons. The BBC did a programme a while ago about asylum seekers and to quote "They come here knowing what to say and how to say it to stay in the country if they don't they go on the run" and that was off an officer trying to chase down the false asylum seekers. We need a stricter policy only in respect to enforcing the law and they should learn to integrate better.
No wonder the NHS is struggling , letting all these freebie hunters into our country, if they must come here make them pay for their stay including any medical treatments they receive, we are far too soft on these people. Of course they want to come , as they say it's all free: they get free housing, food, clothes, money, medical provisionż What incentive is that to our youngsters to want to work? Stop them coming in!
I am genuinely glad to see the responses here. It shows that we in the UK are not the pushovers that the rest of Europe think we are. People do have a right to come to this country but only as much as I do to move to somewhere like Canada for example, to move there I would have to meet certain criteria, be of some use to the country. We really need to crack down on illegal immigrants entering this country, this will affect how long it takes genuine seekers to get in, but maybe that will deter them from trying to enter in the first place. No offence but this is small country.
The British government does not appear to be listening to the people who really matter. Firstly their own electorate, and secondly, the immigrants themselves. There are two issues that have to be addressed. Firstly, what do the British themselves want to see taking place as far as the treatment of asylum seekers is concerned? Secondly, what do the asylum seekers themselves want? It seems inadequate, just a cheap PR exercise, to dump so many asylum seekers into some badly prepared camp, leaving them to fend for themselves almost, without even asking the local population what their views are. If we are committed to taking in asylum seekers, then they should be housed and integrated properly into the British society.
There needs to be an urgent national debate over the illegal immigrants, involving all the people of these small islands. I can see disaster on the horizon, the total collapse of the rules of immigration has been allowed to occur because of successive weak governments. When will someone in authority have the guts to stand up and represent us? Our country is the absolute laughing stock of the world. When people enter these islands illegally, with or without papers they should be deported without delay back to the last country they were in.
Entering this country without proper authorisation and/or documentation is illegal. So-called asylum seekers have committed a crime by so doing and we therefore have the right to detain them until their claim for asylum is proven. Any found to be mere economic migrants should be deported immediately to their country of origin. These islands are already overpopulated, public services are stretched to breaking point. Let's look after our own first while showing humanity to those in genuine danger.
These people do not intend to stay here permanently. Most are not genuine asylum seekers.
Who tried to immigrate first - the British or others? You guys went to every other place on the earth, created rivalries between the people there and exploited the situation to loot them. Your prosperity today is because of that.
PhilT, Cornishman in Oman
Why all the fuss about borders? Do we honestly believe that God created the Earth with the English and the French and the Germans and all gave us set countries in which to live? Why do we believe that we have more right to this little scrap of earth than anyone else? Why should people who feel their life would be better here be excluded? These are the so-called "illegal" or "economic" migrants. Why not? They don't take our jobs as they also become consumers and create at least as many as they occupy. They are not criminals: Most Muslim immigrants have much more harsh views on this than British society. So why the fear? We need somebody to come out and make the case in favour of immigration for a change. It doesn't cost us anything and we have no moral right to refuse.
Yes, they are treated fairly. They are not UK citizens. Being a Citizen of a nation does have its perks, and should only be for the citizens of that nation. As for the Americans on this forum bleating over UK and Australia's attitude to illegal immigrants, they should look at their government's foreign policy which creates these illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.
I don't think this is a question of whether asylum seekers are being treated fairly, it is more of a question of whether the British people are being treated fairly. When I was last in the UK, I saw how the number of people living rough on our streets has increased dramatically, I imagine a lot of these people are all British born citizens. I have read about how homeless shelters cannot take any more people, yet the government is devoting its time to building these centres, which from the accounts that I have read sound a lot better than what an average homeless shelter is like. Added to that, the government seems to show little care to the communities where these centres will be forced onto local populations; from what I have read the people in these centres will be not confined to them during the day, which is causing a great deal of anguish in some of these communities.
If you want the majority of asylum seekers treated fairly then send them back with a bill for the cost of keeping them and processing their obviously bogus claims. Only a small minority are actually true refugees avoiding persecution, the vast majority being economic migrants gambling on a gullible taxpayer, non-existent customs and a government so wrapped up in political correctness that they are impotent when it comes to doing anything about it.
Of the thousands of people pouring into the UK, can anyone define just how many are actually qualified to "seek asylum", in accordance with the full definition of international law? I suspect very few. "Asylum seeker" has become just another catch-all definition. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't help others in need. Of course we should. But the system is in complete disarray. I understand that between 30% and 50% of applicants are "given leave to stay" (a statement very different to "being granted asylum"). And anyway, why such a spread in these figures? Surely we should have a very accurate figure on these activities. However, I understand also that as many as 85% of the balance never leave. Now if that's not a screwed up system I don't know what is.
What asylum seekers? I only see determined and exploitative illegal immigrants who have committed a multiplicity of criminal offences in their determination to get here.
The UK's efforts should be concentrated on keeping them out. Once they have overrun our border controls, under the present 'regime' they are virtually undeportable.
It is clear that these immigrants are economic rather than true asylum seekers. As a British taxpayer I am not prepared to pay for these people to try to illegally enter our country. All immigrants should be made to pay a fee to cover their costs, which would be refundable upon demonstrating that they are true asylum seekers. I don't think this is unfair, given that many pay to be transported illegally.
David Phillips, UK
I agree with Karen Wood. If these people are genuine asylum seekers then the first country they reach is where they should apply for asylum. What appears to be blocking up the system is appeals. There should be no right of appeal and unsuccessful applications deported without delay. Charity begins at home.
Asylum seekers should have to declare their intention in the first 'safe' country they reach. Failure to do so should result in their forfeiting any right to do so at a later date. Anyone who arrives here from mainland Europe should be sent back there immediately. We are a group of already overcrowded islands. Immigration running at 100,000 a year cannot be sustained and should not be sustained.
The government should declare a complete halt to acceptance of any further asylum seekers until there are no more than six weeks' worth of cases in the system. Once this is achieved further cases will be accepted. Any whose appeals fail should be removed within one month. The supply of false applicants will dry up once the failed cases start to arrive home. The traffickers will find it hard to convince others to part with 'passage money' when they see previous payers returning for refunds!
Fear of such immigration is simplistic and a cop-out.
Most of these so-called "asylum seekers" turn out to be illegal immigrants and as such are getting much better treatment than they deserve, being accommodated and fed (and their children educated) at the expense of the British taxpayer. Putting them in camps is a step in the right direction, but these camps should really be guarded, so these people can't escape and disappear into the black economy. Let's hope this scheme delivers the promised reduction in processing time, so the illegals amongst them can be quickly expelled and the genuine asylum seekers can quickly be accommodated more comfortably and given every assistance to settle in the UK.
The only people to be treated unfairly are UK citizens.
We do not want these people here, but the authorities either ignore us, or accuse us of being racist.
These people are economic migrants, not asylum seekers. They should all be locked up in prison prior to deportation.
John Masted, England
What else are we supposed to do with so many people who are looking to live in our country? But are we fair to asylum seekers? Probably not, but that is not really our fault - there are too many economic migrants who use 'asylum' as a possible key to our country. I don't blame them for wanting to better themselves, but I also don't blame us for wanting to be careful.
To Gary from the USA, none of the laws introduced by Australia, to deal with asylum seekers, are illegal or have been overturned by the international legal community. The laws are tough, they send a strong message to people thinking of illegally enter the country, they are working and they are staying.
Gary E Kaminski, USA
I would like to know what Gary in the USA takes for breakfast in the morning. Never mind about Australia and Britain, you just worry about how your country deals with Mexican migrants who are hounded up and dumped back across the border. Where is your heart Gary? I hope you have been following that story for over a year. Oh and by the way did you follow the story about how the asylum seekers rioted and burnt to the ground a brand new holding centre that cost millions and millions of dollars in the British taxpayer. These people if they are not excepted into this country if they lose there appeal for political asylum will probably do it again. This of course is costing you nothing Gary.
Fine words from Gary of the USA - a country with one of the toughest regimes against asylum seekers in the world. Illegal immigrants are imprisoned in a variety of maximum security prisons all over the USA before deportation, with little access to lawyers, etc. What about all the Haitians who have drowned trying to get there? Australia's policy is just fine and is supported the majority of the population - has resulted in the drying up of the flood of illegal immigrants boats. They went back asking for refunds -so the next lot decided not to come. Good. We just increased our quotas of legal refugees to be taken in and cracked down on the illegals. Take note UK.
RE: Gary USA
I find your 'not in our neighbourhood' quote astounding. I am not surprised Brits do not want people who have come to their shores illegally to sponge off the system they pay for. I can understand them not wanting people who set fire to million pound centres, who are in fact criminals, in their neighbourhood. And I can certainly understand them not wanting people who, as have been shown in recent days at Woomera detention centre, abuse and beat the other ethnic minorities among them. I do believe I wouldn't want such people in my neighbourhood either.
Actually yes it seems the government is treating asylum seekers fairly. My wife is from Russia, and we can't get anything. Nothing. From child benefit to housing benefit, and no legal aid. All the while these asylum seekers who more often than not come into the UK illegally are better off than people like my wife who come "officially". I do understand that they might be leaving certain conditions behind but a real "asylum" (and not economic) seeker would declare asylum in the first free and safe country they reach.
14 May 02 | UK Politics
14 May 02 | England
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