PULL & PUSH FACTORS
Why do asylum seekers prefer to claim asylum in the United Kingdom, rather
some other EU country? According to the Red Cross, barely 1-2% of asylum seekers
in France select to apply for asylum in that country and many prefer to enter
Britain to make their claim - hence the fuss over Sangatte where young men breach
the high-security Eurotunnel compound to stowaway on a passing train.
The Benefits system?
Many in Britain perceive the UK a 'soft touch' where asylum seekers are able to obtain financial, medical and educational benefits to the detriment of its own citizens.
Unlike in France or Germany, refugees who reach Britain instantly acquire the effective status of asylum seeker. While they wait for their cases to be examined they are housed and fed and given £35 a week, including £25 in vouchers to be exchanged in the shops. In France an asylum seeker receives £180 and may be left to fend for themselves for accommodation.Health Care?Asylum seekers are entitled to free health care under the NHS. This includes emergency and routine medical treatment, prescriptions for some medicines, child health and maternity services, family planning, dental treatment, eye tests and glasses. However many GPs are now refusing to take asylum-seekers on their list, particularly in the inner cities. This may be either because of anti-asylum seeker sentiment by practice managers and/or because such patients can be demanding on practice resources. Asylum seekers are more likely to have problems in expressing themselves, and suffer from psychological traumas that can take up precious GP time. Asylum seekers qualify for free medicines but only if they have a valid HC2 exemption certificate, which is itself obtained by completing an HCI form. The HC2 certificate needs to be renewed every six months.
|Oxfam and the Refugee Council believe that such financial factors and
facilities cannot be the strongest of 'pull' factors:
Researchers spoke to 40 organisations dealing with refugees for the report,
'Poverty and Asylum in the UK', and found 85% of the groups said their clients
"sometimes or frequently" experience hunger and 80% reported that
they were unable to maintain good health. Asylum seekers cannot afford to buy
essential food or clothes with the benefits allocated to them, which are equivalent
to 70% of income support, the document added. The chief executive of the Refugee
Council, Nick Hardwick, said: "We have evidence that children and families
are going hungry and their health is being detrimentally affected. What is at
stake is that people are being hurt by this system." Asylum seekers are
not part of the mainstream welfare system and so are ineligible for a complex
system of benefits linked to income support. For example, the report points
out that asylum seekers cannot receive milk tokens and vitamins, which are provided
to other poor mothers. The report said that the prospect of receiving benefits
was not a significant factor influencing their decision to come to Britain and
most wanted to work and support themselves rather than be dependent on the state.
'Why refugees prefer Britain to France', The Guardian September 6 2001
The Economics of asylum seeking?
There is undeniably an underworld specialising in the concealment of asylum seekers and their covert transportation to a safe haven. The Observer newspaper has described it as "the world's fastest growing criminal business:
" Every day we hear of the horrors illegal immigrants endure at the hands of the people-traffickers. The catalogue of death in recent times speaks for itself. Fifty-eight Chinese at Dover last year, hundreds drowned annually crossing the Mediterranean to Spain, Italy, and Greece. There is evidence that traffickers have thrown women and children, many of whom cannot swim, into the Adriatic to avoid detection by police patrol boats. "
[The Observer, 4 February 2001]
British truckers and yachtsmen are implicated. July 2002, a Greek court jailed skipper, Michael Woods from Lancashire, for 10 years after he was found guilty of helping 72 illegal immigrants to enter the country, in transit for other destinations. Most were Kurds from Iraq and Syria who paid between £1,500 and £15,000 for passage.
The tariff for smuggling a person into the UK is said to be £10,000. One of the 'pull' factors could be that the tariff to get to the UK is far less than say to get to other prized destinations such as the USA and Canada. The choice of country is therefore determined by the ability to pay for long distance travel.
Ties of kinship and cultural affinities?
A further powerful 'pull' factor to Britain is the existence of a support network previously built up by settled compatriots. Families will naturally seek to come to places where they can be looked after, or with, relatives. For example there are large settled Iraqi and Kurdish communities well-established in Britain with the support infrastructure and economic wherewithal to provide succour to their kith and kin.
|...According to Kathy Summerton, of Leicester's
Children and Families Duty and Assessment Service, the majority [of the
Somali families] say they have heard that the city has a Somali community,
and is multiracial, and were drawn to Britain because Somali is a former
[The Guardian, July 24 2002]
A recent study by the Migration Unit at the University of Wales attributes the success of modern British icons such as the Manchester United football:
|The study, which looked at the reasons why asylum seekers chose Britain, said that few knew much about British asylum policy or had any detailed knowledge of benefit levels they might receive let alone how they compared with other European countries. ...Instead, the report ....said that their images of Britain were a more important factor in their choice of destination. The research, which included interviews with 65 asylum seekers, found that the British figure they were most familiar with was Margaret Thatcher. "They were familiar with her label as the 'iron lady', her personality and demeanour reinforcing a sense of the UK being a powerful country." The asylum seekers also cited Manchester United football club as evidence that they saw Britain as a rich nation and the Beatles and the Spice Girls contributed to the idea that the country was progressive and tolerant.|
(Source: Asylum seekers see Iron Lady as figurehead,
The Guardian, July 25 2002
Earning a living?
Asylum seekers are not permitted to for the first six months in the country,
but then they can apply for a work permit. However they can easily find work
without a permit, because the black economy in Britain is worth some £80bn
a year - four times the size of
France's. There is no penalty for an employer who hires an illegal immigrant. The absence of a national identity card, which is part of life on the Continent, facilitates the process.
However the demographics of Europe are such that its politicians cannot afford to be too strict on the cross-border flow of labour in response to supply and demand: the Northern European countries are faced with a lethal cocktail of ageing populations, declining fertility levels, late marriage of women and declining family sizes which means that they simply cannot sustain high-growth economies and life-styles such as male retirement at 65. Joseph Chamie, senior demographer at the UN has coined the term 'replacement migration' for North's need for labour from the South.
In August 2002, The Guardian reported that:
Since Labour took power in 1997, the Treasury has slowly dragged the Home Office into an acceptance that migration is good for Britain. That was one of the key reasons Gordon Brown was able to upgrade his estimate of the trend rate of growth of the economy in last year's pre-budget report, building in an assumption that net migration will increase annually to about 150,000 from next year.
(Source: A swamp of muddled thinking, The Guardian, 7 August
Quentin Peel, writing in The Financial Times in May 2002 observed that:
(Source; No room for the intolerant, Ft.com, May 14 2002
The temptation of the traditional parties of the centre-right and centre-left, whether in the Netherlands, France, Italy or the UK, is to tighten the restrictions they have already in place on immigration over the past three decades. If they can demonstrate that they too are tough on immigration, they think they can head off any drift to the right. They are wrong for two very practical reasons, it would be economically disastrous, and virtually impossible to implement. The dilemma facing Europe's political leaders is that their economies cannot continue to grow, and provide generous social services, without a steady flow of immigrants. Yet they are afraid to take the initiative and argue in favour of immigration for fear of being punished at the poles.
'Sense of crisis as migrants keep moving', FT.com, July 25 2002
Push out factors