Whilst there are fears that racial harassment of asylum seekers in the UK is widespread, there is no comprehensive monitoring of the situation. However, the level of reports of racial harassment to the National Asylum Support Service (NASS), the Home Office department responsible for providing support to destitute asylum seekers, was recently made public during parliamentary questions.
NASS records both reports by asylum seekers of racial harassment concerning the behaviour of accommodation providers and reports of racial harassment by local communities.
According to Home Office Minister Angela Eagle, asylum seekers reported 36 incidents of racial harassment concerning accommodation providers during the period October 2000 to October 2001.
The number of allegations of racial harassment by local communities is far greater: 861 incidents were reported to NASS during the period May 2000 to October 2001. There were 112 reports of racial harassment by local communities in October 2001 alone, nearly twice as many as in the previous month.
The Refugee Council’s Director of Communications, Fazil Kawani said:
“This worrying trend shows clearly that asylum seekers and refugees are at real risk from racists and bullies. This figure could be just the tip of the iceberg as many of the asylum seekers we see in our services tell us that they are too frightened to report their harassment to NASS or the police as they are worried about jeopardising their asylum claim. Politicians at all levels must work with the police, community groups and local authorities to stamp out racism in all its forms.
“By scrapping the voucher scheme the Government has recognised the stigma and potential risk the vouchers placed on asylum seekers. We now urge the Government to address this serious problem and create a more socially inclusive system that reduces community tensions.”
The Refugee Council publishes a leaflet for asylum seekers who are victims of racial harassment, which is translated into several languages, which can be downloaded from our multilingual website.
Racial harassment investigations team at NASS, Tel 0845 602 1739.