Special Report: Refugees in Britain.
May 21, 2001 5:56 AM   Subscribe

Special Report: Refugees in Britain. The Guardian features excellent video clips of first-person stories of refugees who have made the long struggle from misery toward what they hope is a safer, more prosperous life. Includes stories on political asylum as an election issue, how to claim asylum, why refugees and asylum seekers are choosing Britain (the country with the second-largest immigrant population in Europe, after Germany) and a Flash-based guide on who's seeking asylum and from where.
posted by Mo Nickels (5 comments total)
Asylum in Britain has, for the last couple of years at least been one of the most talked about issues by politicians seeking the populist vote and newspapers looking for an easy target.
The image of the freeloading illegal immigrant, living off state handouts while begging on the streets has been pushed into the minds of a large number of British people who now associate it with all those seeking asylum. The tabloid newspapers were initially responsible for this image, more recently the politicians, desperate to appear to be 'in touch' with the fears of their voters have blown the asylum issue way out of proportion.
To be seen as soft on asylum seekers has become a major political faux-pas, the two main parties place asylum at the front of their election messages. If the politicians and newspapers are to be believed, there are 'bogus' asylum seekers begging on every street corner while defrauding our social security system of millions of pounds which would otherwise go to 'deserving' causes like hospitals and schools (it's always hospitals and schools - you can't provide a 'reasonable' counter argument agains hospitals and schools).
The truth, as these less sensationalist, more rational reports show is very different.
I used to be very proud to live in a country where race seemingly mattered less and less as the years went by, where people were increasingly judged on their achievements instead of their skin colour. Now I'm ashamed. Ashamed of the general public's attitude to asylum seekers and the eagerness of many people to see them incarcerated and shipped out on the next boat home. Ashamed of the attitude of the politicians who would rather win a few easy votes than provoke a rational and reasonable discussion.
The only thing that doesn't surprise me is the attitude of The Sun et al. they ceased to surprise me long ago.
posted by Markb at 6:29 AM on May 21, 2001

Mark, the situation's pretty much the same here in United States, except, well, more people are more close minded. They hate all immigrants, in fact there's even a whole party based on that, their basic goal is to take out all immigrants into international waters and close off the U.S. borders with 100ft cement walls. The other party wants immigrants to stay as they are, since then they have no rights, others want them to work for free, but live elsewhere between seasons. No one likes a crasher, except there has never been a party in the first place.
posted by tiaka at 6:50 AM on May 21, 2001

One of the better films on British asylum-seekers, Last Resort paints a pretty stark picture of the experience of arriving in a foreign place, and being treated as scum. (Interestingly, it by a Polish director.) And the characters are white Europeans - one can imagine the degradation inflicted upon those of a slightly darker hue.
posted by mapalm at 8:34 AM on May 21, 2001

One of the best docs on PBS in recent history was last year's Well Founded Fear, which follows asylum-seekers and case-workers over the course of many months. Also a work-of-art site design.
posted by subpixel at 8:44 AM on May 21, 2001

As the Guardian pointed out, the majority of asylum-seekers represent precisely the kind of immigrants we're supposed to want in Britain: better qualified than the population as a whole. There's certainly a curious difference in the attitude to, say, the many young white, English-speaking Commonwealth types moonlighting in the bars of Earls Court.

(The "hospitals and schools" argument has a particularly hollow ring, too, given the role of immigrant staff in the NHS.)

But that's beside the point, given that we have a duty of care to these people.
posted by holgate at 3:39 AM on May 22, 2001

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