Select a question to see the answer.

But what does it mean to be a refugee?

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What is meant by the term ‘refugee status’?

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What rights do refugees have?

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What is meant by the term ‘asylum seekers’?

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Is there a refugee crisis in Europe?

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Why do so many people try to come to the UK to seek asylum?

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Why won’t refugees stay in other safe countries?

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Taking in refugees is a burden on the economy.

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Why do we see so many people trying to enter Europe on small boats or hidden in lorries?

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But what does it mean to be a refugee?

Put simply, refugees are people who have been forced to flee their homes. But, refugees are more than their circumstances, and they’re more than the label ‘refugee’.

Any person can become a refugee at any time. Refugees are ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. At the moment, more people than ever before are being forced to flee their homes, with 30 people displaced every minute.

What is meant by the term ‘refugee status’?

Holding refugee status means that you are legally recognised as a refugee. It is a defined legal category instead of the colloquial use of ‘refugee’ as a blanket term for anyone forced to flee.

Refugee status is granted to a person who has fled their home country to escape war, violence, or persecution and is unable or unwilling to return.

This definition comes from the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. This ground-breaking convention was the first international agreement that defined refugee status and the protections it affords, and it’s still crucial today.

A person only becomes a refugee in the legal sense once they are deemed to meet the internationally agreed definition of a refugee by a government other than their home nation or the UNHCR. By recognising them as a refugee, their host country guarantees them certain rights and protections.

What rights do refugees have?

Usually, a government is responsible for the fundamental human rights of its citizens. However, when people are forced to flee their home country, they can no longer access these rights. Instead, they have to seek international protection as refugees. Therefore, host countries must act on their obligations to protect refugees and guarantee their rights.

An essential form of protection is the rule of ‘non-refoulement’ which states that countries cannot forcibly return refugees to anywhere that they may face danger. Alongside this, states should ensure refugees enjoy economic and social rights and be provided with the opportunity to have their spouse or children join them. In line with the 1951 Refugee Convention, these rights must be equal to the freedoms of foreign nationals living legally in that country.

The Refugee Rights Project Refugee Rights 101 Quotes Khaled Hosseini

What is meant by the term ‘asylum seekers’?

To become legally recognised as a ‘refugee’, individuals have to apply for asylum. Consequently, people in the legal process of applying for refugee status are known as ‘people seeking asylum’. While the alternative term ‘asylum seeker’ is widely used, it can be a dehumanising label, so we prefer the term ‘person seeking asylum’.

Everyone has the right to seek asylum in any country they arrive in. According to the UN Refugee Convention, refugees cannot be penalised for entering a country to claim asylum, no matter how they arrive.

People fleeing danger are also not required to seek asylum in the first country they reach. Myths suggesting otherwise are used to discredit a person’s claim to protection by implying that they are ‘shopping’ for the country that provides the ‘best deal’. In reality, most refugees flee to a neighbouring country or one they have connections with, and they have little to no information on what support they will receive before they arrive.

Is there a refugee crisis in Europe?

Those seeking safety in Europe are increasingly treated as ‘security threats’ and met with violence, pushbacks, hostility and detention rather than acknowledged as vulnerable people in need of support and protection.

Many have claimed the increase in arrivals in Europe is a ‘refugee crisis’, but this is a misnomer that positions refugees as the problem. In actuality, the number of people seeking safety in Europe is entirely manageable through considered, compassionate and coordinated policy.

\Instead, European nations are forcing refugees back to countries where they face torture and persecution and funding those same nations’ borders. Across Europe, refugees are detained, violently pushed back across borders, segregated into overcrowded and unsafe camps and forced to cross oceans in small boats to reach safety. The only crisis is the one facing refugees, and it is one created by European leaders.

Everyone deserves to live a life free from violence and persecution.

Everyone deserves the chance to rebuild their lives in safety and security, no matter where they come from or how they arrive.

Why do some people try to come to the UK to seek asylum?

They don’t.
In comparison to other European countries, the number of asylum applications received by the UK is minimal. In the same period that the UK received 31,752 applications, Germany received 155,295, France received 129,480, Spain 128,520 and Green 81,465.

Source (application figures): www.unhcr.org/uk/asylum-in-the-uk.html

Those who come to the UK are not ‘shopping for the best deal’, as some commentators suggest. Most who undertake harrowing journeys to reach the UK do so because they have family members here or have other connections, such as speaking the language.

To claim asylum in the UK, refugees must be in the country. In most cases, this forces them first to cross the sea in a small boat to reach Europe and then cross a continent to make it to the UK’s border in France. At the border, they face abysmal conditions, living in sheer destitution and subject to violent raids by French police, as part-funded by the UK government. Some will be able to board another small, overcrowded boat, handing over their life savings to a smuggler to cross the English Channel.

In the UK, the Home Office continually seeks out new ways to avoid its responsibility to protect refugees. As a result, many people seeking safety face living under the constant threat of deportation or detention. Furthermore, they are banned from working and forced to rely on inadequate benefits from the government. Some face indefinite detention in abysmal facilities. Many more are dispersed across the country in unacceptable living conditions in poorly maintained asylum accommodation.

The UK is not taking a disproportionate number of refugees. It is treating a small number of refugees with extreme hostility.

Why won’t refugees stay in other safe countries?

Across Europe, media outlets and politicians sell the same story of ‘real refugees’ vs ‘fake refugees’. They claim that all ‘real’ refugees would claim asylum in the first ‘safe’ country they reached.

Those seeking to reach Europe are dismissed as ‘fake refugees’ who want to take advantage of lenient asylum procedures. This is categorically untrue for several reasons.

Reason One

Refugees are not required to claim asylum in the first safe country they reach.

Reason Two

Many countries that are deemed ‘safe’ aren’t safe for refugees.

In Libya, a key transit country before crossing to Europe, refugees are exploited, imprisoned and tortured. In Lebanon, 89% of Syrian refugees live in extreme poverty and more children are being forced to leave school to work instead. In Turkey, full refugee status is only available to arrivals from Europe. As a result, non-European refugees have no stability or security and often face exploitation. On the Greek Islands, refugees are trapped in abysmal camps or detention centres, unable to access their rights. In northern France, unaccompanied children sleep on the streets without support and are consistently harassed and assaulted by police.

Source (Lebanon): www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jun/23/10-years-on-syrian-refugees-l ebanon-dream-of-home-photo-essay
Source (Turkey): www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-refugees-idUSBRE93B0XO20130412

Reason Three

European asylum procedures are anything but lenient.
The asylum application process is traumatising and arduous. Mistakes are often made, and an unfair and unrealistic burden placed on refugees to provide solid evidence of persecution. As such, many refugees have to appeal to have their claims heard. Refugees can wait years for decisions on their legal cases, often with minimal support and sometimes are detained for the duration of processing. Even once granted refugee status, many European countries only offer temporary security.
Saying that refugees should stay in other ‘safe’ countries is simply a way of avoiding responsibility for receiving and protecting refugees. Refugees have no choice but to flee from danger. The choice is in how we receive them.

The Refugee Rights Project Refugee Rights 101 Quotes Dina Nayeri

Taking in refugees is a burden on the economy.

While welcoming refugees is simply the right and moral thing to do, it is also good for the economy. Statistical analyses tell us that refugees and people seeking asylum benefit the economy of their host nation within five years of arrival.

Rather than taking up public resources, the arrival of refugees leads to economic growth and a drop in unemployment rates, meaning the economy might actually suffer from not welcoming refugees.

Right now, the UK economy is missing out on an estimated £97.8 million boost every year by refusing to allow people seeking asylum to work. Instead, millions in taxpayer money are wasted each year on hostile and ineffective border control and detention policies.

Welcoming refugees, it’s common sense.

Source (£97.8 million figure): www.refugee-action.org.uk/lift-the-ban
Source (within five years of arrival): www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05507-0

Why do we see so many people trying to enter Europe on small boats or hidden in lorries?

Many political and media figures seek to discredit their claims to asylum and experiences of conflict by insisting that they entered ‘illegally’ and should be treated as illegal immigrants. However, the Refugee Convention clearly states that refugees cannot be persecuted or punished for entering a country through ‘irregular means’. It also states that they can only apply for asylum once in the country, forcing refugees to cross borders through dangerous routes.

Refugees’ journeys are never safe. They are fleeing for their lives and have no choice but to keep moving until they find a safe place to rebuild their lives – they can’t access the same safe means to cross borders that many of us are used to.

Instead, they have to cross however they can, in small boats or hidden in lorries. They have no choice but to undertake dangerous journeys. Rather than understanding this, European leaders treat refugees as threats and use this to excuse criminalising border crossings, segregating refugees into camps and restricting their movements.

By responding to refugees in this way, European leaders push them into the hands of traffickers and smugglers, exposing them to exploitation, torture, modern slavery and abuse.

Therefore, they are forced to get assistance from traffickers and smugglers and end up taking dangerous journeys: crossing oceans in overcrowded boats or hidden in the back of lorries.

The Refugee Rights Project Refugee Rights 101 Quotes No Hate No Fear. Refugees Are Welcome Here.