Asylum Update – 18th June 2008


UNHCR has released its annual report “2007 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum-seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons”, showing refugee numbers rising for second year running.

The Red Cross have publicized the findings of a survey of British perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers. The survey was conducted by ICM with 2,068 adults in May 2008.

The Home Office’s Country of Origin Information Service has published new country reports on Albania, DRC, Eritrea, Somalia and Key Documents on Nepal and South Africa.

Figures obtained by the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns show 48 incidents of self-harm requiring medical treatment in UK immigration removal centres in the first quarter of 2008, an increase of 54% on the last quarter of 2007.

The Mentoring and Befriending Foundation’s annual conference in May launched a new report, Mentoring and Befriending, in which refugee and refugee organisations feature strongly. The report focuses on the relationship of mentoring and befriending to cohesion and cross cultural issues

Policy and law

Home Office Minister of State Liam Byrne has provided a written answer to the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs stating that it is not feasible to distinguish how many Iraqi asylum claims had been granted on the basis of work for British forces, and that the resettlement scheme operated from Iraq does not include the granting of asylum. 

  • See also recent parliamentary debates on situations in countries of origin of UK asylum seekers.

Statewatch have published “The Returns Directive: 9 June 2008” and a supplementary analysis: “The Returns Directive – the final stages?” Both are by Professor Steve Peers of the University of Essex and look at the directive in terms of human rights and asylum and immigration law.

  • See also: European Parliament approves Returns Directive


The Centre for Migration Policy Research (CMPR) at Swansea University will host a conference on Refugee Rights and Realities in Wales on 10 July. It is supported by the Welsh Refugee council and places are free for refugee and not-for-profit organisations.

Nigel Harris will speak on “Refugees, economic migration and the future of the world economy” at the Royal Society in London on 26 July, as part of the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA).


In a special feature for Refugee Week (16-22 June) hosts MigrantVoice on refuge, a “debate on the issues that matter for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.”


Asylum Update – 4th June 2008


Amnesty International’s 2008 report entitled “Torture: Truth and Consequences” highlights the approach of EU member states to the human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

A comparative overview of the implementation of the Reception Directive has been published by the EC-funded Academic Network for Legal Studies on Immigration and Asylum in Europe (Odysseus Network). The study examines whether and how member states have applied the Directive.                           

See also ECRE’s proposals for changes to the Directive and Eurasylum’s interview with the coordinator of the Odysseus Network.

The International Centre for Reproductive Health has published Hidden Violence is a Silent Rape -results of the research project “Prevention of sexual and gender-based violence against refugees in Europe: a participatory approach”.

Journal article (1): A useful methodological synergy? Combining critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics to examine discourses of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK press, by Baker, P. (et al);  in Discourse and Society Vol 19 No. 3

Journal article (2): Information Development for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies: the Refugee Studies Centre Library in the last decade, by Rhodes, S. in Information Development Vol 24 No. 2


Policy and law

A Ugandan asylum seeking woman, seeking the right to stay in the UK for Aids treatment, has lost the final round of a 10-year legal battle after a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

EU Migration Policy: An A-Z is a new descriptive briefing from the Centre for European Reform. 

The Children’s Legal Centre has updated its tables of further and higher education entitlements of asylum-seekers, refugees and persons granted limited leave to remain.


Conference: Moving forward – supporting refugee teachers. Part of the Refugees into Teaching project and the launch event for the Refugee Teachers Network. Leeds, 24 June 2008.

Refuge In Films Festival, 20-22 June 2008, London. The second edition of this festival “dedicated to raising awareness about refugee and migrant issues”. Email for details.

Exodus Shorts Refugee Film Festival 16-22 June 2008 in Manchester and Liverpool.



The Children’s Society and Bail for Immigration Detainees have been awarded  funding from The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund to work to “end the immigration detention of children in the UK within three years” as part of the Fund’s Refugee and Asylum Seekers Initiative.  


The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture has published its 2007-2008 Annual Review.

The binary logic of asylum

There is a certain logic that often pervades coverage of asylum issues from all sides. The logic turns on the fact that the asylum decision is seen as a pure determination of an individual’s moral worth. Those who are given asylum, the refugee, are often seen as saintly; the failed asylum seeker is seen as quite the opposite.

This binary logic is at work in the representation of this story. Inducing the return of failed asylum seekers with ‘reintegration payments’ is a policy used by the Home Office as an alternative to forced removals, which on average cost the taxpayer more than twice the amount. In this sense it is a pragmatic policy to attempt to deal with the paradox of returns. Yet here the binary logic kicks in: failed asylum seekers are bad and should not be given taxpayers money – even if forcibly removing them costs the taxpayer double.

It is understandable that there is concern about people with no remaining legal right to be in the UK receiving any funds. Yet this logic places a huge amount of faith on the asylum determination procedure, which is fraught with complication. There are huge grey areas in asylum decision-making in which someone can have legitimately fled from a civil war but often is not able to prove that they are under specific threat of persecution; there are likely to be cases where the reverse is true. Forced migration and global asylum is a far more complicated issue than can be determined by one decision made on a specific set of criteria.

Furthermore, from this binary logic, the story of failed asylum seekers receiving payments can become embellished. It is argued that this will act as a pull factor to other migrants wanting to use the asylum route to get into the UK. But these payments are conditional on leaving the UK. It is unlikely that people would first save thousands of pounds in order to pay the right agents to transport their family to the UK and then seek asylum in the hope that they would then receive, on average, £1,500 just to return home again.

Campaigning against deportation

Al Bangura, the Watford footballer set to be deported back to Sierra Leone, has received unprecedented support from football fans of all clubs in recent days. Bangura fled the civil war in his country and arrived in the UK as an unaccompanied minor four years ago; he is now a well-paid professional with a family in the UK. The campaign to persuade the Home Secretary to overturn the decision is being led by Watford fans but also has support from professional bodies.

The public support is reminiscent of many smaller local campaigns for individuals in a similar position around the UK. But is the high-profile nature of this case a good thing for justice and fairness? There would seem a compelling case for Bangura to stay, but many others may have similarly compelling cases but dissimilar public profile and support. Yet, while Bangura’s public profile may have generated greater support, the publicity of the case may make it difficult for the Home Office to overturn as it would provide a clear precedent for other similar cases.