Refugee groups urging people to watch words over asylum seekers - The Evesham Observer

Refugee groups urging people to watch words over asylum seekers

Evesham Editorial 23rd May, 2023 Updated: 23rd May, 2023   0

A COALITION of refugee support groups, including one in Evesham, is calling on councils to speak out against ‘dangerous and inflammatory’ language used against people seeking asylum.

Eight voluntary organisations which support refugees and asylum seekers have joined forces to send open letters to local authorities across Worcestershire, outlining their opposition to inaccurate language which ‘increases violent prejudice and danger’ towards people seeking sanctuary.

The coalition includes Evesham Vale Welcomes Refugees. The open letter was sent to Wychavon District Council on Monday (May 22) demanding the current immigration debate – which the coalition says is dominated by ‘deeply concerning’ rhetoric – be countered with balanced and factual arguments.

However, the alliance is also full of praise for the continuing efforts made by councils across the county to welcome and support refugees and asylum seekers, and it is encouraging Worcestershire County Council to apply for a ‘Council of Sanctuary UK’ award in recognition of its widespread practical compassion.

It highlights the widespread use of the phrase ‘illegal asylum seeker’ particularly by some politicians.




The letter points out under both UK and international law, anyone has the right to seek asylum in the UK. Only when asylum has been turned down and the person has subsequently refused to leave, can they then be described as ‘illegal’.

Julie Tucker, chair of Evesham Vale Welcomes Refugees, said: “Using the term ‘illegal asylum seeker’ to describe someone who has just arrived in the UK looking for safety, having fled from unimaginable violence and horror, is not only factually inaccurate but is also designed to create prejudice and animosity,” he said.


“And the use of words like ‘invasion’ and ‘swarm’ also paints an entirely false image, when we’re talking about a relatively small number of people who have invariably fled war, torture or persecution.

“These are desperate human beings who deserve compassion and support – they’re not individuals who should be vilified.

“Almost always, refugees and asylum seekers would want to stay in their home countries if they were able to live there freely and safely – that’s the reality of the situation.

“That is why hundreds of volunteers across the county – together with the support of local councils – are committed to helping refugees and asylum seekers gain the sanctuary they need, and to support them as they try to settle into the British way of life.

“This volunteer army shows despite the media rhetoric, our county communities are actually compassionate and caring and willing to offer the hand of kindness and friendship to those who, at the end of the day, are just ordinary humans no different from us,” he added.

 

OPEN LETTER ON “ILLEGAL” ASYLUM SEEKERS from WORCESTERSHIRE WELCOMES REFUGEES coalition to councils in the county.

We are writing on behalf of all the Worcestershire Welcomes groups and asylum seekers support groups in the county. We are grateful to county, city and district councils for the welcome they have extended so far to refugees in our midst. We acknowledge and value the unstinting support of the resettlement team employed by Worcestershire County Council.

However, we have become deeply concerned by the tone of the rhetoric being used, especially at a national level, by some politicians and some media who refer to ‘Illegal Asylum Seekers’. We challenge the use of ‘Illegal’ in this context. This is of course not the only terminology misused in this way, but is, we believe, the one that underpins most of the rest.

We ask our County, City, Borough, and District Councils to speak out against the use of such dangerous and inflammatory language.

Since the arrival of the first Syrian refugees in 2016, and subsequently people from Afghanistan and Ukraine, all our voluntary community groups have offered a welcome to those seeking refuge in our county. We have also been encouraged on the occasions when our local MPs have helped and supported in some individual cases. Additionally there are many other sympathetic citizens who help, practically and morally. These actions show our society to be compassionate and caring, fulfilling our legal and moral obligations.

All our Welcome groups offer support to people of all ages – men, women and children – who have fled their homeland and seek sanctuary in a safe place. The causes of their flight include war, torture and persecution in their home countries, and they have almost always suffered immense personal trauma to get here. These people may have arrived through UK Government sponsored schemes, or they may have made their way here in desperation by other routes. In either case, we offer unconditional support without discrimination.

If the refugees did not arrive by one of the few officially sanctioned routes, they need to apply for asylum. Asylum is another word for sanctuary, so ‘asylum seeker’ is a perfectly correct and appropriate term for all people coming to our country seeking safety.

This is embedded in both international legislation and in our own law. They are not ‘illegal’ unless, and until, their case has been properly investigated and is then refused. Only if they do not leave when requested would their presence here become illegal. To use the term ‘Illegal Asylum Seeker’ is factually inaccurate.

This term, and other language suggesting that we are being ‘invaded’ or ‘overwhelmed’ by young men who are ‘economic migrants’ rather than by people seeking safety, is dangerously inflammatory. Such language increases violent prejudice and danger towards those already officially resident here, as well as towards those whose cases will be agreed once fully and properly considered.

This is why we seek your support to ensure that the narrative offered is accurate and respectful of the human rights of people who have already suffered so much.

Furthermore, in view of the widespread practical compassion for these people shown by our County, we request a meeting with the leader of Worcestershire County Council to discuss applying for the ‘Council of Sanctuary UK Award’ – see (https://cityofsanctuary.org/). By this means we hope to build solidarity and respond to hostility.

We look forward to your response at [email protected].

Yours sincerely,

Ruth Forecast for Worcestershire Welcomes Refugees & Malvern Welcomes

Johannah Dyer for Bromsgrove and District Asylum Seekers Support

Yvonne Rendell for Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees

Margaret Rowley for Droitwich Welcomes Refugees

Julie Tucker for Evesham Vale Welcomes Refugees

Brian Darwood for Worcester City Welcomes Refugees

Janice Bell for Wyre Forest Refugee Support Group

Sarah Lange for Wyre Forest Asylum Seekers Support Group

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