Socialist Worker

Breaking down the myths on refugees

Issue No. 1801

'ASYLUM-VILLAGE invaded.' 'We just can't keep them out.' These are just some of the scare stories over asylum seekers that have recently appeared in the British press. Below we expose the myths and argue why refugees should be welcome in Britain.

Is Britain overcrowded?

SOME 59 million people live in Britain. Last year 71,700 refugees applied for asylum. That is just 0.12 percent of the population. This low figure is less than the previous year, when 80,315 applied for asylum. There are too few people, not too many, in some areas of Britain. Look at Scotland. The press has whipped up hysteria over the few thousand refugees sent there under New Labour's dispersal policy. The population is falling sharply in Scotland.

It could fall to just 3.8 million from five million. Over half these people will be over 50 years old by the year 2060, according to Scotland is Dying, a report for the Scottish Parliament.

Inverclyde council has demolished 200 houses a year because the population has plummeted. A further 2,250 are due to be pulled down. In other areas ordinary people are living in cramped homes piled on top of each other.

The problem is not refugees. It is the tiny number of rich people who own the vast majority of land across Britain and enjoy several luxury homes and country estates. The rich are hanging on to many of the 753,188 empty homes in Britain just so they can sell them at a profit.

Is Britain a 'magnet' for refugees?

THERE ARE 60 million refugees across the world. They do not all head for Britain. Britain only ranks seventh of the 15 countries in the European Union in terms of asylum applications per 1,000 inhabitants, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

The asylum support in Britain is similar to that of other European countries, according to a study by the Danish Refugee Council. Refugees are created by the system we live in.

Wars mean that people are forced to flee for their lives. The three top countries of origin for refugees to Britain are Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, places that war has turned into hellholes. The global economy means more people are forced to travel from country to country in search of work.

An economic crisis or debt brings chaos and dire poverty to the mass of people in whole countries. Repressive regimes mean some are forced to leave their homes, friends and family.

This decision is a traumatic one. Refugees feel they have no choice. New Labour's harsh asylum laws will not stop such refugees. It will just make their desperate journey to Britain even harder and their lives here a misery. Shiraz Pir, an Afghan refugee, must have hoped that Britain was a safe place to flee to after being shot in the legs by the Taliban.

But New Labour ruled he was a 'bogus' asylum seeker. Shiraz hanged himself in Bristol earlier this month rather than be deported to the Afghanistan that the US and Britain have supposedly 'liberated'.

Do refugees get 'generous' benefits?

ASYLUM SEEKERS are some of the poorest people in Britain. Any family trying to live on Income Support, a benefit set at the poverty line, knows how difficult it is to survive.

Asylum seekers get 70 percent of that. Refugee mothers don't even get the milk tokens that mothers on benefit are entitled to. Refugees have finally been allowed to get cash after New Labour was forced into admitting its voucher scheme was degrading. A single adult gets £37.77 a week. Even the state pension is £75.50 a week for a single pensioner.

A recent Home Office report quoted refugees saying they didn't have enough to provide extra clothing and bedding in winter. They said buying medication and fresh fruit and vegetables was a problem. One refugee couple said they skipped meals to buy things for their daughter.

Why refugees should be welcomed in Britain

WHEN HOME secretary David Blunkett refers to refugee children 'swamping' schools it boosts racists like the Nazi British National Party. Saying refugees are welcome here is a blow against racism. Refugees and immigrants have a positive contribution to make in Britain. New Labour does not allow asylum seekers to get jobs.

Yet many of them have skills that could make a major contribution to vital services. The education, health and transport systems all suffer from lack of staff.

Railtrack is currently scouring Romania to recruit more engineers for maintenance work in the wake of the Potters Bar rail crash. At the same time New Labour singles out refugees from Romania and Eastern Europe as 'bogus', and attempts to deport them.

David Blunkett concedes that more workers from abroad should be encouraged to come to Britain. Immigrant workers currently contribute around £2.5 billion to the British economy. But his policy means cherrypicking particular workers and restricting their rights in Britain.

Refugees will still be condemned to live off meagre benefits and branded a 'problem'. Each new community that has settled in Britain has enriched our society and helped build a multicultural Britain that most people celebrate.


A different mood

ONE OF Blunkett's planned new refugee camps is at RAF Newton in Nottingham. It is one of three pilot 'accommodation centres'. New Labour has given a lifeline to racists by dumping refugees in remote areas with no support services.

Racists have already begun to whip up opposition to the planned camp in Throckmorton, Worcestershire, backed by the Daily Mail. Simon Behrman spoke to Socialist Worker about a different mood over the planned camp in RAF Newton in Nottinghamshire.

'The village of Newton, with the base literally next door to it, has some 400 people living there. It's not a particularly well off area. Newton has no school, no doctors, no shops, and not even a bus service into town. I spent a day in the area and managed to look around the base itself. I spoke to a couple of dozen people who were around the streets and in a local pub. Some had the usual reaction of, 'Not in my backyard.' However, after discussion everyone except one person said it would be better for both the refugees and the community if they were allowed to integrate into the area and get jobs.'


Nazis started Oldham riots

NAZI FOOTBALL hooligans started the riots in Oldham in May last year. These revelations were shown in the BBC2 TV programme Hooligans last Sunday. They support the reports of Socialist Worker in the wake of the riots. Darren Wells, a former Nazi Combat 18 member, spoke about the planned attack on the Asian community in Oldham.

Secret film footage showed Nazis and racist Oldham, Stoke and Cardiff football hooligans agreeing to put off fighting each other. Instead they instigated attacks on the Asian community. Rampaging Nazis and racist hooligans assembled to organise the attacks.

When fighting broke out in Oldham more racist hooligans and far right groups crawled out of the woodwork. These Nazis rallied and went back to Oldham on 26 May to stir things up and cause the riots.

REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE

DEMONSTRATION

Saturday 22 June

Assemble 12 noon, Malet Street, central London (nearest station Euston)

Called by Barbed Wire Britain, Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers, National Civil Rights Movement, and National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns


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