The United Kingdom is widely regarded as the most tolerant country in the modern world. Discrimination exists, but on a far lesser scale compared with other Western countries. Do we take pride in this fact, or do we perceive ourselves as too understanding and accepting?
Regardless of the side we fall on, government policy dictates that immigrants choosing to reside here may do so providing they meet a particular criteria. In some circumstances, immigrants don’t choose to stay here, they need to stay here. Every year, the UK has an influx of asylum seekers, men, women and children who have faced persecution in their own country. In many cases, human rights have been violated and should they continue to reside in their native land, they face unprecedented hardship and in extreme circumstances, torture.
Whatever the motivation to flee their native land, they believe the UK can provide a safe haven, somewhere to start a new life, perhaps even discover the meaning of the word normality. What they don’t realise is when they do reach our borders, the battle is only just commencing.
Upon entering the country clandestinely or at port and claiming asylum, the subject is taken for a screening interview, in most cases after which they are granted temporary admission to the UK and are sent to their initial accommodation. At a later stage they are called to attend their substantial interview, which lasts for several hours. This provides the basis for the Case Owner to decide whether they have grounds to claim or not. Should they have sufficient grounds to claim, the subject is assigned to a particular location for their claim to be processed.
In Wales, asylum seekers rely on the support of the Welsh Refugee Council (WRC) for services ranging from English language classes, help with basic necessities in addition to work on each claimants individual case. As with a vast number of organizations, the WRC is facing severe cuts to their annual budget spread across its 4 offices. This means services will be reduced, staff will be lost, and asylum seekers in the area may yet suffer most. I spoke to a case worker for the WRC, who fears for the future of asylum seekers who have been rejected, as their financial support ceases at the point of rejection; they also took time to highlight funding cuts to the Legal Services Commission; ‘with limited provisions coming into place, it will be increasingly difficult for asylum seekers to receive fair representation’. The propensity therefore for failed asylum seekers to roam and work illegally in order to survive is also set to increase.
Society opinion favours the cuts as necessary action in these turbulent economic times. But one wonders whether they are indeed too hard, too fast, and whether the time and consideration is being paid to the people who will feel the cuts the most. The single mother facing redundancy, wondering what the future will hold. Even worse, a failed asylum seeker who doesn’t know where they will sleep that night, or when the police may take them away. Just because the cuts are happening, it doesn’t mean people in these situations will go away. They are here, and they need our help.
If you would like to donate to the Welsh Refugee Council, and help asylum seekers and refugees with basic necessities you can contact the head office in Cardiff on 029 2048 9800 or visit their website:- http://www.welshrefugeecouncil.org/