Immigration, Refugees and Asylum

Why Scotland needs refugees to prevent a growing proportion of pensioners relative to people in work, leaving us unable to afford pensions

Immigrants of all kinds are often presented as if they are merely a drain on the country. In Scotland this is very far from the truth. If it wasn't for immigration Scotland's population would be falling and ageing, with the proportion of pensioners increasing relative to the number of people left in work. Pretty soon the people in work would be unable to generate enough tax to pay the pensions of those no longer working. Immigrants' average age is much lower than the average age of people born here though and so immigration helps to ensure that we avoid the 'pensions bulge'. Even with the current levels of immigration Scotland's population is ageing with the number of pensioners projected to increase and the number of people of working age projected to fall. The latest General Register Office for Scotland statistics show this is already happening (see the table at the bottom of the page on that link).


End the hype on immigration, the myths and the hatred directed at all refugees and migrant workers

Right up until the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust irrational hatred of Jews was common all over the world - and considered normal and acceptable. Today the majority recognise this prejudice is wrong and unjustified, but new targets have been found - today all immigrants, refugees and migrant workers are widely hated as if all of them were criminals or exploiting the benefits system - they're not. The vast majority either want a job or are fleeing torture or death under dictatorships or in wars, or environmental catastrophes like the spread of deserts into areas that previously had water and where crops could be grown, or from flooding or extreme poverty and hunger. In Haiti for instance, even before the 'credit crisis' many people were reduced to buying 'mud cakes' of mud with salt mixed into it in order to try to fill their own and their children's stomachs, because they can't afford to buy food.


Myths about Immigrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers – and the facts

There’s a lot of confusion and mis-information about immigration, refugees and asylum in the UK and Scotland.


Surveys show most people in the UK believe the UK has around 24% of the asylum seekers in the world. The true percentage is 3%. The average person surveyed thought there are over 50,000 asylum applications each year. In fact there are around 25,000.


It’s important to know what ‘asylum seeker’ means for instance. It does not mean ‘illegal immigrant’, nor ‘migrant worker’. It means someone who has applied to the Home Office of the British government asking for refugee status.


A refugee is technically someone who has been granted refugee status, though it also has a more general meaning of someone who has fled from their home due to natural disasters, wars, oppression, fear of being killed or tortured etc.).


An ‘illegal immigrant’ may be someone who has tried to sneak into the country without going through customs and through the process of applying to be a legal migrant worker or seeking asylum as a refugee. Some ‘illegal immigrants’ are actually genuine refugees in the wider sense of the word – they really are fleeing for their lives but are so scared of being sent back to their deaths that they avoid the authorities in the UK.


An ‘illegal immigrant’ may also be a migrant worker who has applied to work in the UK and had their application rejected, or an asylum seeker who has applied for refugee status and had their application refused by the Home Office, but has then gone into hiding to avoid deportation or refused to leave the country. Again, some of these kind of ‘illegal immigrants’ are actually genuine refugees, fleeing from torture, rape or death in their own country, but having had their application for refugee status rejected by the government here.


One of the myths about Asylum Seekers or refugees is that they don’t want to work, come here for the generous benefits and get more in benefits than people born here do. In fact asylum seekers are not allowed to work while they wait for their case to be heard and get lower benefits than people born here .

  • Here are the amounts paid per week to Asylum Seekers while they wait for their case to be heard (from the UK Border Agency’s website): Qualifying couple (married or in a civil partnership): £69.57
  • Lone parent aged 18 or over: £42.16
  • Single person aged 18 or over, excluding lone parent: £35.13
  • Person aged at least 16, but under 18 (except a member of a qualifying couple): £38.18
  • Person aged under 16: £50.81

And here are the amounts paid per week to unemployed people born in the UK (or with UK citizenship) in jobseeker’s allowance:

£51.84 for people aged 16 to 24 (higher than the £38.18 to £50.81 paid to 16 to 18 year old asylum seekers)  and £65.45 for people aged 25 or more if contribution based (higher than the £35 to £42 per week paid to asylum seekers over 18)

If income based the amounts are the same except couples can get up to £102.75 a week , compared to £69.75 for asylum seeker’s benefit.

Research shows that claims of immigrants being put to the front of the queue for new council houses are not true either, with 90% of the people in Council Houses in the UK in 2009 having been born here. Immigrants are also a smaller percentage of the number of people in Social Housing (2%) then they are of the population as a whole (3%).

The number of immigrants coming to EU countries each year has also fell significantly between 2000 and 2008 (see page 4 of this UNHCR report)

To read more on the myths and facts on immigration see 'Bogus - Thirteen myths about immigrants and refugees' (written in 2005).


Deal with the causes of immigration, not just the symptoms

While most of the political parties are all for being “tough on immigration” they ignore the causes of mass immigration. Punishing, jailing and deporting refugees and migrant workers will not reduce the flow of immigrants. Only dealing with the causes of it will.

As long as we continue unfair trade practices that force 'developing' countries to open up their markets to government subsidised imports from the relatively rich countries (including Scotland and Britain), while putting barriers on trade for their exports to our countries, people in the 'developing' countries will be suffering so much hunger and poverty that they'll want to leave those countries and come here, rather than watch their children slowly starve or die of preventable diseases due to lack of clean water and money for food.

As long as our governments continue to help repressive dictatorships like the Saudi monarchy in Saudi Arabia, Mubarak in Egypt, the military installed governments of Honduras and Thailand and many others stay in power by selling them arms, training their troops and guaranteeing to use force to prevent them being overthrown people will continue to come here to try to keep themselves and their families safe and to enjoy the freedom of speech, freedom not to be tortured and freedom not to be jailed or executed without fair trial that we enjoy here.


Protect Genuine Refugees

People whose entire families have been murdered are being sent back to die. Whole families including children who have committed no crime are kept in ‘detention centres’ which are in reality more like jails for months or years while their appeals are heard – and then forcibly deported to torture or death.


Labour (other than a few decent back-benchers), the Conservatives, UKIP and the BNP would all continue this.


Here are a few examples out of thousands every year.


Zimbabwean asylum seeker Edneth Gotora is the widow of a senior member of the Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Supporters of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party broke into their house in 2002. They killed her husband and injured the couple's 4 year old daughter so badly that she later died. Edneth was taken to a 're-habilitation camp' where she was raped and tortured.  She escaped and managed to get to the UK where she sought asylum. Her application for asylum (refugee status) was refused by the Home Office in 2005 and she was held in Yarlswood ‘Detention Centre’ (a jail for people whose asylum applications have been rejected before they’re deported) for months until she was released on bail. Only the support of people in Stockton on Tees, churches, her MP and campaigners for refugees stopped her being deported immediately.


This was not an isolated case – and Edneth was relatively lucky. Black Zimbabwean asylum seekers are being refused asylum in large numbers and deported back to torture or death.

Charles Ndelemani, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change, the opposition to Mugabe’s repressive government, faces being deported back to Zimbabwe, risking torture and probably death in April this year (2010).


The British government and the Conservatives claim to condemn Mugabe's government and the torture, rape and killing of Zimbabwean opposition supporters.

So why will neither of them accept black Zimbabwean asylum seekers from Zimbabwe ? While Mugabe's regime targets white farmers it kills 10 black MDC supporters for every white farmer. It's right that we accept white farmers who are fleeing Zimbabwe - but wrong that we dont accept black MDC supporters too.


Under the Conservatives and Tony Blair's 'New Labour' our record on asylum and immigration is shameful. The Labour government would not improve it - the Conservatives want to make it worse by having quotas for not only the number of asylum seekers to be deported each year but also the maximum number to be allowed into the country annually.

In detention centres families with children who have committed no crime are held for years.

Labour, Conservatives, UKIP and the BNP would continue these shameful policies.


Close detention centres, replace detention centre guards with police and customs officers

Criminalising large numbers of refugees and migrant workers who are mostly no threat to anyone is a huge waste of money and staff. Detention centres should be closed and the money saved spent on training and paying more police and customs officers who can target the minority of people - born here and immigrant or refugee - who are criminals and are a threat to others.