Teacher and Student

Facts about Refugees and people seeking asylum

Myths and scare stories about refugees and people seeking asylum are told repeatedly. 

Before debate about borders, safe countries, security, and economics, we must start from a place of humanity. The people who are the subject here are desperate, have been through unimaginable situations and hardship, and seeking asylum is a fundamental human right.

Here are some facts and figures to give a true picture – please help us spread the truth about asylum.

Who is a Refugee?

The definition of a refugee according to The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is: “A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it. In the UK, a person becomes a refugee when an individual who has applied for asylum meets the definition in the Refugee Convention.  That person is ‘recognised’ as a refugee and issued with status and documentation. Refugees in the UK are usually given five years’ leave to remain as a refugee. They must then apply for further leave, although their status as a refugee is not limited to five years.

Traditional Fashion Portrait
Image by Siddhant Soni

Who is a person seeking asylum?

A person who has left their country of origin and formally applied for asylum in another country but whose application has not yet been concluded or heard. 

Wherever possible, it is preferable to describe someone as a person seeking asylum, we feel that the term ‘asylum seeker’ is dehumanising.

What is a refused asylum seeker?

A person whose asylum application has been unsuccessful and who has no other claim for protection awaiting a decision. Some refused asylum seekers voluntarily return home, whilst others are forcibly returned. However, for many, it is not safe or practical to return until conditions in their country change so neither option is viable. They prefer to face destitution in the UK rather than return.

At Nottingham Arimathea Trust we work with this cohort of people to provide them with accommodation, support & safety to help them have their cases reassessed by the Home Office.

Image by Tim Mossholder
Image by Annie Spratt

What is a Migrant?

Someone who has moved to another country for other reasons, such as to find work.

Do people have to claim asylum in the first safe country they reach?

No. Neither the 1951 Refugee Convention, nor EU law requires a person to claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. People trying to cross the Channel can legitimately claim asylum in the UK if they reach it.

The Dublin Regulations is a system which allows one EU country to require another to accept responsibility for a person who has claimed asylum when specific conditions apply, including that the person is shown to have previously made a claim of asylum in another EU country. The intention is that asylum claims are then shared more evenly between EU countries.

The Dublin system only operates within the EU and ceased to apply to the UK following Brexit.

 

76% of all people seeking asylum wait longer than six months for a decision

36% One in three people are granted refugee status on appeal

£5.66 denied the right to work vulnerable families struggle to survive on just £5.66 a day

NRPF Refused Asylum Seekers have No Recourse to Public Funds and so face destitution

1% The UK is home to approximately 1% of the 26.4 million refugees, forcibly displaced across the world

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Image by Benjamin Davies

Are there many refugees and asylum seekers in the UK?

No. Neither the 1951 Refugee Convention, nor EU law requires a person to claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. People trying to cross the Channel can legitimately claim asylum in the UK if they reach it.

The Dublin Regulations is a system which allows one EU country to require another to accept responsibility for a person who has claimed asylum when specific conditions apply, including that the person is shown to have previously made a claim of asylum in another EU country. The intention is that asylum claims are then shared more evenly between EU countries.

The Dublin system only operates within the EU and ceased to apply to the UK following Brexit.

 

76% of all people seeking asylum wait longer than six months for a decision

36% One in three people are granted refugee status on appeal

£5.66 denied the right to work vulnerable families struggle to survive on just £5.66 a day

NRPF Refused Asylum Seekers have No Recourse to Public Funds and so face destitution

1% The UK is home to approximately 1% of the 26.4 million refugees, forcibly displaced across the world

Developing countries look after most of the world's refugees

At the end of 2020 around 82.4 million people were forcibly displaced across the world. Of these, 26.4 million were refugees, whilst 48 million were internally displaced within their country of origin.

86% of the world’s refugees are living in countries neighbouring their country of origin, often in developing countries.

At the end of 2020, the country hosting the most refugees was Turkey – home to almost 3.7 million refugees. Other significant host countries for refugees were Pakistan, Uganda, Sudan, Iran and Lebanon.

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Image by Christian Lue

Which countries in Europe have the most people seeking asylum?

In 2018, Germany received the highest number of asylum applications (161,900), and France the second most (114,500).

Over 6.7 million people have fled conflict in Syria, and many more are displaced inside the country. At the end of 2020, Turkey was providing safety to 3.7 million Syrian refugees. By the end of February 2021, the UK had resettled 20,319 refugees from Syria under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS).

Can people seeking asylum work or claim benefits?

People seeking asylum are not allowed to claim benefits or work in the UK. 

The right to work would allow people seeking asylum to support themselves, to use their talents and experience, and help them to feel part of their community.

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Image by Adedotun Adegborioye

What happens to someone when they get refugee status?

When a person is given refugee status, they have 28 days to find accommodation and apply for mainstream benefits before they are evicted from asylum accommodation. 

Many refugees become homeless at this stage. This is a huge upheaval and causes many complex ongoing issues – especially as so many have been in the asylum system for long periods of time. Nottingham Arimathea Trust works with refugees who are in this situation to make the transition in a managed, supported and considered manner.

Why do people still need help here in the UK?

Once people arrive in the UK, it is easy to assume that their journey to safety is over. However, people who come to the UK seeking safety may face situations which threaten their dignity, safety, health and possibly their lives.

 

POVERTY - Denied the right to work, people seeking asylum live below the poverty line.

 

ISOLATION - Lack of access to English language classes leaves many unable to integrate.

 

WAITING - People are often left waiting for months or years for a decision on their claim.

 

HATRED - People we work with may suffer horrific violence and racist abuse.

 

DESTITUTION - Many people seeking safety are forced into housing that is substandard and unsafe and are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

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HOW DOES NOTTINGHAM ARIMATHEA TRUST HELP?

Nottingham Arimathea is a small charity based in Nottingham which provides a service, unique within the East Midlands, for destitute asylum seekers. NAT provides housing and subsistence for vulnerable asylum seekers whose cases have been refused, providing them with a safe and warm environment, to rebuild their lives, and put together a fresh asylum claim.  Working in conjunction with other local charities, we not only provide the basics, but also specialist support work, opportunities for training and volunteering and social activities to re-build people’s sense of self-worth. 

The complexity of putting a human being back together again after they have been through horrendous experiences in their country of origin, on their journey to the UK, and their treatment within the asylum system, cannot be underestimated, and can take months, or in some cases years.  

We also provide housing and similar support for particularly vulnerable newly recognised refugees; helping them take their first steps into integration in the UK. Understanding a cashless society, learning English, and getting work and are examples of areas that our skilled and trained support workers help with.

 

We believe than NO person seeking asylum or refugee should experience destitution.