Q and A: asylum seekers and refugees

There is a lot of confusion surrounding asylum seekers and refugees.  Personnel Today addresses the key questions

Q:  How is an asylum-seeker
defined?

A:  An asylum-seeker is a person who has
fled from his or her home country and is seeking refugee status in another
country.

Q:  What is meant by refugee?

A:  For an asylum-seeker to gain
refugee status they must:
– Be outside their country of origin or outside the country where they usually
live, and be at genuine risk and in fear of serious harm
– Prove their own government does not want to or is failing to protect them
from harm
– Prove that their fear is linked to their civil, political or social status.
For example, they are being persecuted by the state because they are affiliated
to an opposition political party or because they are of different ethnic origin

– Need and deserve protection.

Q:  How many asylum-seekers enter
the UK?

A:  There were 77,040 applications
received last year. This is an increase of over 5,000 on 1999.  Nearly 6,000, (5,815), applications for
asylum were received in March 2001. The March figure, the last to be published,
is 5 per cent up on February’s figure of 5,520.

Q:  How many asylum-seekers are
granted refugee status in this country?

A:  Last year, 10,185 asylum-seekers
were given refugee status – 10 per cent of the 110,065 asylum decisions
made. 
In 1999 only 7,815 refugee statues were granted from 33,720 decisions made, or
33 per cent.
In March of this year, 1,700 people were recognised as refugees, up from 1,205
in February.

Q:  Where do UK asylum-seekers
come from?

A:  The most common nationality for
an asylum-seeker in the UK last year was Iraqi, with 7,080 applicants. This was
followed by Sir Lankan with 6,040. 
Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iran supplied the UK with 5,695, 5,230 and
5,170 asylum-seekers respectively in 2000. 
In March 2001 the most applicants for asylum came from Afghanistan, with
680. Somalia was second with 470 applicants for asylum.

Q:  What do immigrant workers
contribute to the UK’s economy?

A:  In a Home Office report published
this year, immigrants put £2.5bn back into the economy, 10 per cent more money
than British-born residents do.  The
report also claims that immigrant workers do not take jobs away from British
people, they fill gaps.

Q:  How skilled are the UK’s
refugees?

A:  More than a third of refugees
questioned by the Home Office in 1995 held a degree, postgraduate or
professional qualification.  More than 90
per cent could speak two languages, while 65 per cent spoke at least three
languages.

Q:  What are the regulations
governing employing asylum-seekers in the UK?

A:  Under the Asylum and Immigration
Act of 1996, it is a criminal offence for employers to take on employees whose
immigration status prevents them from working in this country. Employers are
liable for fines up to £5,000.

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