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There has been a lot of publicity surrounding the general issue of Asylum Seekers, with reports of clashes between Asylum Seekers and members of the host community seeming to be a frequent occurrence. The question of the number of asylum seekers allowed entry into the UK has been at the centre of a longstanding debate for some time. However, it hasn’t been up until recently that labour government has decided to take action in order to control the escalating amount of asylum seekers in the country.
Therefore, it will be these new measures taken by he home secretary that were announced earlier this week following the asylum amnesty that will be analysed. In order to understand why the government is so eager to control the influx of refugees it is necessary to look at the evidence. According to home office statistics there were approximately 10,588 applications for asylum in the UK in the second quarter of 2003. The top five applicant countries were Somalia, Zimbabwe, China, India and Pakistan. Also in 2002 the UK received most applications of asylum than any of the other western countries with 24%.
It is these statistics and media coverage around the arrival of asylum seekers that heighten grwoing tensions and hostility towards asylum seekers. Media coverage of asylum seekers can be blamed for fuelling hostility towards the seekers therefore the media coverage of the new reforms and how they are presented to the general public will be analysed. David Blunkett’s new measures to toughen up the asylum system were unveiled earlier this week. It was announced that asylum seekers could go to prison for up to two years if they destroy their passports or travel documents on the way to Britain.
It is thought that this would make claiming refugee status more difficult if the refugee doesn’t hold the correct papers. Not only is the home secretary taking direct action with the asylum seekers plans have also been revealed to target ‘unscrupulous and unqualified’ legal advisors in Britain who encourage asylum seekers to make unwarranted appeals. Some would argue that the number of asylum seekers allowed into the country needs to be controlled. Members of the host country in particular can be hostile towards the asylum seekers. This is because asylum seekers are seen as taking advantage of the benefits provided by the country.
This includes the NHS, subsidised housing. As asylum seekers are not entitled to work this can often lead to their reliance on the basic benefits at the expense of the tax payers and again this heightens hostility between the two groups. Likewise, memners of the host country tend to be worried in terms of cultural aspects The new reforms have attracted much media coverage. According to the Independent (28th October) the new measures can be seen as a success for British asylum policies. According to the article the home secretary, ‘has succeeded through administrative stealth, in something few would have thought possible’.
The article continues to argue that despite the new measures the UK will remain faithful to the legal obligations of obligations of the1951 UN convention. The convention formally defined a refugee as a ‘a well fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’. However, it can be argued that as the UK is presenting obstacles in the way of asylum can they really promote themselves as a liberal and democratically free country? This is the argument taken by Theodore Dalrrymple.