What is a refugee?
Article 1 of the 1951 UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) Refugee Convention defines a refugee as “a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.” This definition further emphasises how a refugee flees their country due to the fear of being persecuted for reasons of “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion etc.”
The United Kingdom:
There is a global refugee crisis that needs our attention more than ever. According to the BBC, around the 8th August 2020, it was recorded that more than 500 people were intercepted crossing the English Channel. This is a clear demonstration of how the migration crisis has escalated. However, the question we should all be asking is “what is the underlying cause urging these migrants to flee from their native countries?” Rather than constantly asking “how do we keep them out?”
The UK is notorious for condemning refugees entering the country. The Guardian revealed that conservative MP Nigel Farage created and published an “anti-migrant poster” stating that “we must break from the EU and take back control” which caused a lot of controversy, eventually it was reported to the police. The poster was known to incite “racial hatred and it breaches UK race laws”. The fact that Farage gained support over his derogatory poster, is a clear demonstration of how biased, and ignorant individuals within the UK can be in regard to this issue. Who will criticise them next, you?
When looking at how some British citizens respond to foreigners entering the country, it can be somewhat shameful. An article from the Canary news recalls how a campaigner recently stated that, “the UK must stop demonising refugees and consider its own role in creating the circumstances they are escaping from.” I strongly agree with this, as many refugees have reached the UK by crossing the English Channel in everything from Kayaks to a paddling pool. Nobody risks their life like this for nothing, especially since the most common cause of migrant death is drowning, according to October 2019 data records from IOM. It is inhumane and very much cruel to restrict individuals who claim to be refugees (asylum seekers) from acquiring help.
Asylum seekers are those that flee their countries of origin for their life, and who travel to another country and make themselves known to the authorities through an application where they have to prove they’re refugees, in the hope that the host country will allow them to stay there.
What is the underlying cause for refugees fleeing to England/ Europe?
According to an article from BBC news, Debbie Busler, Head of Refugee support at the British Red Cross stated how “there are all sorts of painful and distressing reasoning people leave their home countries.” For example, almost seven million Syrians have been made refugees by their country’s civil war.
From data recorded by the BritishRedCross, in 2018, the UK received applications for asylum from 37,453 people. This is far less than Germany (162,000), France (110,000), Greece (65,000) and Italy (49,000). Although refugees are desperately trying to find a safe haven, many migrants are finding themselves stuck between neighbouring states, as it has become difficult for migrants to cross European borders. IOM data shows how in 2019, there were over 200,000 migrants stuck across the Balkans, in particular Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia.
The misconception of all refugees as job thieves and benefit scoundrels is far from reality, as asylum seekers actually have no right to work in the UK despite the fact that a significant majority are highly qualified professionals. Through gov.uk, it has even been clarified that asylum seekers get a weekly cash allowance of £37.75, and this amount is expected to cover living costs such as, food, clothing and toiletries, which can arguably be viewed as absurd.
A lack of sympathy and compassion on this issue is nothing to be proud of. Each individual should play their part in encouraging the government to stop limiting access to those that are in desperate need of help into the country. Additionally, it is crucial that the government increase the weekly cash support for asylum seekers. With the UK being in recession and Brexit taking effect, it is important that we don’t forget that it makes it harder for ordinary families to function, let alone refugees.
Imagine yourself having to face these circumstances, wouldn’t you want to be helped?