Statement on the announcement of the Home Office dispersal review, by Margaret Lally, Deputy Chief Executive of the Refugee Council - Refugee Council
August 13, 2001

Statement on the announcement of the Home Office dispersal review, by Margaret Lally, Deputy Chief Executive of the Refugee Council

Refugee Council press release

“We welcome any constructive review that will improve the dispersal system.

“As ACPO and the UN have pointed out, there has been a stark deterioration in the language used by politicians and the media when talking about asylum seekers. This has created many misleading or inaccurate perceptions in the public eye and has fuelled the potential for racial tension.

“Areas that asylum seekers are sent to must be chosen more sensitively and with an eye to future settlement of refugees – not as a means of controlling and punishing asylum seekers.

“Key to a successful strategy for integrating asylum seekers into dispersal areas are access to lawyers and interpreters, the development of refugee community organisations, investment in education and training for asylum seekers and increasing the opportunities for work.

“Some areas, like West Yorkshire, have already built up a great deal of expertise in dealing with refugees following the very successful Humanitarian Evacuation Programme when Kosovars – fleeing war and human rights abuses – were welcomed into the region.

“During the Kosovan crisis, many politicians, on both a local and national level, took the lead in informing people about the humanitarian reasons the Kosovars needed to be given protection.

Politicians and other people in positions of power urgently need to once again dispel some of the myths that have taken hold in the media and in the public perception today. They need to explain the sorts of situations that are being fled and to clarify the tough reality of life as an asylum seeker in the UK.

“For example most people don’t realise that asylum seekers actually have to live on vouchers which obviously draw attention to them, stigmatise and humiliate them.

“These vouchers are only worth 36.54* – which is less than 70 per cent of basic income support – and asylum seekers can only spend them at designated shops while the shop gets to keep the change. A recent MORI poll showed the descrepancy between the levels of support asylum seekers actually receive and the public’s perception, as people who were surveyed on average believed asylum seekers receive £113 weekly in cash.

“A vital fact to bear in mind is that the UK actually only offers a home to less than one per cent of the world’s refugees.”

ENDS

* this is the amount a single person over 25 is elligible for.

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