Asylum-seekers have to eat too

by Chris Bertram on April 10, 2017

The Guardian has a piece today on the asylum-system in the UK, attacking the policy whereby asylum-seekers are dispersed to areas of the country with a lot of empty and cheap housing on the grounds that this is burdensome to poor areas and that Labour-controlled local authorities have to host more people than Tory ones do. The entire drift of the piece is to see asylum-seekers as a cost unfairly imposed on poor communities, and an accompanying article about Rochdale, represented by Simon Danczuc MP (the sort of Labour MP who goes drinking with Nigel Farage), has the predictable white working-class local complaining:

“[Immigrants] get everything given to them, everything for free; I don’t get anything. It just seems to me that the working class, working people, are being hit the hardest by immigration.”

Well, there’s an obvious point to be made, both to him and to the authors of the main article. Asylum-seekers are provided with accommodation that nobody else wants and made to live on £5/day. If they got more then our bitter member of the “white working-class” would complain more about the unfairness, but if you are going to have to live on that kind of money they you had better not be made to live in Kensington and Chelsea. I’d support increasing the allowance (a lot) for asylum seekers, maybe making it variable depending on area of the country, providing more resources to local authorities to help with schooling and permitting asylum-seekers to work (banned by Labour). Apart from giving more money to local authorities, none of these sensible changes is backed by Labour, no doubt worried about being seen to give people “something for nothing”, yet they are essential if you are going to have anything like a different system of geographical dispersal. There is the further issue, of course, that many of the asylum-seekers are in fact refugees who the government hasn’t got round to recognizing as such yet, and keeping refugees in limbo for years is a stain on the UK’s human rights record.

{ 24 comments }

1

Gareth Wilson 04.10.17 at 8:36 am

“[Immigrants] get everything given to them, everything for free; I don’t get anything. It just seems to me that the working class, working people, are being hit the hardest by immigration.”

The logical problem here is obvious – someone else getting something, even if it’s grossly undeserved, doesn’t harm you in any way. You can’t even make a budget argument, since the number of asylum seekers aren’t a significant drain on public resources. But exactly the same argument is used against inequality. If this guy was complaining about the owner of the country house having a good year, you’d be cheering him on.

2

Fran 04.10.17 at 10:25 am

I have only just come across terminology of “low information voter” people just don’t have accurate understanding of the facts. Back in the 1970s I worked in an Unemployment Benefit Office (now Jobcentres) in Newcastle in U.K. Dole queues were full of angry men certain that they were being treated dreadfully while other folk who never wanted to work lived on the far of the land. It was never true (apart from organised fraudsters who are a different matter altogether).

Even when people find out the hard way that benefit rates in U.K are meagre and always have been many of them fuelled by tabloid press misinformation just know that scrounges live in luxury – and that had nothing to do with racism- back in the day Newcastle was almost exclusively white.

3

ZM 04.10.17 at 10:42 am

Maybe policy could target areas for urban or regional development and try to encourage asylum seekers to live in those areas and attach funding or other government incentives and support to the priorities of the development plans, so there isn’t the perception that the white working class are being forgotten.

I agree about the ban on asylum seekers working being terrible. That’s the case in Australia too, I think they have to be granted refugee status before they’re allowed to work. And the process can take so long for irregular arrivals that it can drag out to years not being able to work. At the moment the income support for asylum seekers in Australia is low, like the unemployment benefit, and well below the cost of living.

There was research done into the economic benefits of refugees in the Nhill area, a rural area where from about 2010-2015 160 Karen refugees settled, drawn to work at the poultry producers Luv-a-Duck.

The study found the refugees had made a AU$40 million contribution to the local economy.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-24/study-reveals-refugees-boosting-nhill-economy/6417620

I saw the farm owner talk about the benefits last year, one thing he said was as more refugees settled there the easier it was because they all helped each other settle in. I’ve read about that in academic studies too, that refugees often settle in more easily where they have like-ethnic communities in the places they live, in contrast to some older thinking where “ethnic enclaves” were thought to discourage integration.

With Brexit the U.K. government probably has to make policies for econmic development in areas that will be affected by leaving the EU – maybe it can combine migration settlement policy with Brexit economic development policy, since they are issues that are connected in the minds of voters already.

4

Cian 04.10.17 at 6:35 pm

I feel that the argument for freedom of the press is greatly weakened by the existence of UK tabloids.

5

Philip 04.10.17 at 7:22 pm

Yes, that is a terrible article. It has nothing about the unfairness of asylum seekers being given accommodation on a no choice basis so that they are separated from support networks of friends and family. That they are sent to some of the poorest parts of the UK where they face resentment and hostility. That the housing conditions are terrible. That single adults have to share bedrooms with strangers who have also had traumatic experiences. That single parents have to share kitchens and living spaces with other families who do not speak a shared language. That the housing providers have a contractual duty to report any non-essential items, such as TVs, mobile phone, or computer, that could be sold instead of providing financial support, etc. It even says that Calais was a big magnet for refugees when there was just a tiny fraction of all refugees in Europe there.

Technically asylum seekers aren’t banned from working. There are restrictions so asylum seekers can work after waiting 12 months for a decision, but only on the shortage occupation list. Also Sweden has far less restrictions on the right to work but only a few asylum seekers are able to get jobs, at least according to the article below but I’m not sure how reliable it is.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/583192/Permission-to-work-v7.pdf

https://www.thelocal.se/20160531/fewer-than-500-of-163000-asylum-seekers-found-jobs

6

Scratch 04.10.17 at 7:23 pm

Perhaps they could decant some of the white working class from Rochdale into this desirable area social housing instead. No extra cost to the state and a nifty smorgasbord of lucrative employment opportunities for these lucky internal migrants.

Surely no-one could find fault with that, class bigots excepted of course.

7

Stephen 04.10.17 at 7:45 pm

ZM: “refugees often settle in more easily where they have like-ethnic communities in the places they live, in contrast to some older thinking where “ethnic enclaves” were thought to discourage integration.”

But is there really a contradiction between (a) refugees settle in more easily into ethnic enclaves, and (b) ethnic enclaves discourage integration with the non-refugee community?

8

novakant 04.10.17 at 8:16 pm

On a global scale it is shameful how few asylum seekers the richest countries accept:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/richest-nations-host-9-percent-refugees-160718055355279.html

9

Moz of Yarramulla 04.11.17 at 4:31 am

is there really a contradiction between (a) refugees settle in more easily into ethnic enclaves, and (b) ethnic enclaves discourage integration with the non-refugee community?

It would be tricky to disentangle this from (c) refugees face greater prejudice than others because of their recent arrival and generally poorer integration (language skills, knowledge of local customs etc). Even at the trivial level of knowing their rights, refugees often do poorly.

My limited experience suggests that ethnic enclaves help more than hinder because they allow internal skill-sharing. There’s a reason why as soon as one of them discovers a job or other resource they all start using it. “Them” in this case could just as well describe resources like tax dodges that filter through the rich tax-minimising(sic) communities. The key factor is that it’s much harder to discover and join a community if you have little to nothing in common, so ethnic communities work and piling random refugees into crappy social housing then leaving them to rot doesn’t work.

10

ZM 04.11.17 at 4:36 am

Stephen,

The academic article I read was looking at settlement as part of the process towards integration. Being close to like ethnic communities allowed people to settle better in the short term which in turn led to better integration outcomes in the longer term.

Integration was also seen as a two-way street, where the host community had a role to play in the process too, rather than the onus being on migrants alone.

11

ZM 04.11.17 at 4:39 am

I also read a comparative study between Northern and Southern Europe, where it found refugees had a better integration outcome in Southern Europe where they were provided with less assistance than in Northern Europe. In Northern Europe it looked at how the assistance could sometimes spatially and socially create barriers between refugees and migrants, and the host community. Where there was less assistance in Souther Europe there was also less government processes to be followed, and this decreased the barriers between refugees and the host community leading to better integration.

12

reason 04.11.17 at 1:30 pm

If there was a basic income then everybody would get something for nothing and the asylum seekers would be getting far less, so the others would have nothing to complain about (except the extra work because of the extra local demand).

13

Roy 04.11.17 at 1:53 pm

Liberals don’t even pretend to hide their sneering contempt of white working class people anymore. You utter disgrace.

“the predictable white working-class local complaining”
So then let’s put these asylum seekers in posh, middle class areas so we can hear pretentious, liberals complaining for a change.

“Asylum-seekers are provided with accommodation that nobody else wants and made to live on £5/day.”
You’re saying that they pay for medical bills, schools, legal advice, accommodation etc out of that five quid? Amazing …

“I’d support increasing the allowance (a lot) for asylum seekers”
Then pay it for yourself so that money can be spent on the white working class you despise so much.

14

Stephen 04.11.17 at 9:02 pm

ZM: “Integration was also seen as a two-way street, where the host community had a role to play in the process too, rather than the onus being on migrants alone.”

I find this interesting but am not sure I understand it.

Suppose I migrate, for whatever reason, to Atlantis as a long-term project. To become integrated there, I suppose I should learn to speak, read and write fairly fluent Atlantean, to appreciate Atlantean food and drink, to fit in with Atlantean social customs, to have an appropriate knowledge of Atlantean politics, history, literature, music, art; to regard Atlantean culture as at least not inferior to my own original culture, and to settle down happily in Atlantis.

Now, suppose some Atlanteans migrate, for whatever reason, to my original country. What do you expect me to do to play my part in their integration? Learn Atlantean?

15

Pavel 04.12.17 at 5:17 am

@Roy

It’s almost as if the modern white working class is a bunch of racist welfare chauvinists who spend more time making sure that no one else (who isn’t white) gets anything, rather than wondering why they’re being screwed over by Capitalism and forced to fight other minorities over the remaining scraps.

I guess the idea that you may be one part of the Capitalist system’s divide and conquer strategy hasn’t really occurred to you? Blaming people fleeing from war zones for wages and jobs decimated by decades of free-market policies is just a little myopic.

I am legitimately empathetic to the cause of the working class, but if you can’t figure out who your actual enemy is, it’s impossible to treat you very seriously. Also, I guess it has never entered your mind that non-white members of the working class may actually be worse off in a variety of ways.

16

J-D 04.12.17 at 9:45 am

Roy

Liberals don’t even pretend to hide their sneering contempt of white working class people anymore. You utter disgrace.

Do you think people should pretend to hide their sneering contempt? I mean, when you feel sneering contempt, do you pretend to hide it?

17

ZM 04.12.17 at 12:57 pm

Stephen,

“Now, suppose some Atlanteans migrate, for whatever reason, to my original country. What do you expect me to do to play my part in their integration? Learn Atlantean?”

You could visit them and welcome them to your community, help them with filling in documents in English while they are still learning the language and processes, make sure they are linked in with community groups and government services etc, try and learn a bit about their homeland and culture, that sort of thing.

18

Dipper 04.12.17 at 2:33 pm

… and before people fleeing the middle east there were South Vietnamese boat people. Here’s a look back at how those refugees were received.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/refugee-crisis-son-of-vietnamese-boat-people-shares-story-of-how-britain-treated-asylum-seekers-in-10493316.html

19

Roy 04.12.17 at 5:37 pm

@Pavel

Listen carefully ‘Pavel’. I’m not stupid and I’m not ignorant. I’ve been following this stuff longer than you and I’ve heard all your spray-on opinions a hundred times. You’re wrong about everything.

Lie 1: “Blaming people fleeing from war zones for wages and jobs decimated by decades of free-market policies is just a little myopic.”

You’ve been duped by the ‘progressive’ media. There’s a pervasive myth that pretends natives blame migrants for the effects of immigration. Owen Jones likes to say “we should stop blaming Polish nurses”, but no one ever does blame Polish nurses. This is a lie by people like you to shift the responsibility of failed immigration policies onto migrants and to make its critics look like bullies. Most people don’t ‘blame’ migrants – they blame politicians for their reckless and destructive immigration policies. It’s a straw man argument, a lie spread by people like you.

Lie 2:“I am legitimately empathetic to the cause of the working class”

So tell me what you would do to preserve the close-knit white working class communities that have been split up by mass immigration in places like London and Birmingham? Let me guess – you’ll simply deny this happens. You’ll apply migration revisionism. You’ll claim that those places always had a high migrant influx and that people naturally move away from poor areas as their prosperity increases etc. You’ll say it’s nothing to do with immigration, even though these same places have been overwhelmingly white with minimal migration for centuries.

You’ll explain white flight and increasing segregation in London schools not on the colossal failure of ‘diversity’, but on the ‘right wing media’ that stirs up prejudice in primitive, stupid working class people who believe everything they read in the Daily Mail. But strangely you’ll never, ever think of blaming people like yourself.

Lie 3:“… but if you can’t figure out who your actual enemy is, it’s impossible to treat you very seriously.”

Astonishingly condescending comment. I haven’t told you who my ‘enemy’ is. My enemies are those in power who would use mass migration for financial and political gain to the detriment of the native people. My enemies are those who would willingly split up extended white families by using mass immigration as a weapon to change our country’s demographics.

Lie 4: “Also, I guess it has never entered your mind that non-white members of the working class may actually be worse off in a variety of ways.”

You guess that because you are as ignorant as you are arrogant. Your opinion of me comes not from my actual beliefs but from a stereotype that is derived from sneering comments in The Guardian and dysfunctional ‘racists’ you see in BBC middle class dramas who say “innit” and blame all their failings on hardworking migrants.

Non-white people in Britain are more likely to live in poverty, suffer highers levels of unemployment and commit proportionately more crime than natives whites. But even so they still cost money, money that could be spent on native people. And yet we are told by clueless pro-immigrationists that multiculturalism and diversity are a success. But the Left was always good at cognitive dissonance.

You’re not a fraction as clever as you think you are. You’re a parody. A clueless, useful idiot.

20

Cian 04.12.17 at 6:06 pm

Are they actually giving them money, or vouchers? Because in the good old days of Labour that we’re supposed to be nostalgic about – they would just get vouchers that they couldn’t spend anywhere.

21

Chris Bertram 04.12.17 at 6:39 pm

Right Roy, you’ve had your two comments. I’ll reply to the first one, since it was addressed to me, and then please don’t bother us again:

“the predictable white working-class local complaining”
So then let’s put these asylum seekers in posh, middle class areas so we can hear pretentious, liberals complaining for a change.

What was predictable was that this voice featured heavily in the journalistic coverage. My intention was not to say that working-class people who happen to be white complain a lot.

“Asylum-seekers are provided with accommodation that nobody else wants and made to live on £5/day.”
You’re saying that they pay for medical bills, schools, legal advice, accommodation etc out of that five quid? Amazing …

We already dealt with the accommodation. Yes, their children are educated in state schools like other children. They often have a great deal of difficulty accessing medical services and much of the advice they get is provided pro bono by volunteers.

“I’d support increasing the allowance (a lot) for asylum seekers”
Then pay it for yourself so that money can be spent on the white working class you despise so much.

I’m not sure why there’s a choice here. If you informed yourself about what a refugee is and what asylum is you’d know that the UK has an obligation under international law to people whose home states are persecuting them (or cannot protect them). It does this in the meanest way it possibly can. It is hardly the fault of the tiny number of refugees in the UK that public services are under pressure, that’s a consequence of political decisions.

22

Philip 04.12.17 at 8:45 pm

Cian, the system is basically the same as under labour with a weekly cash payment of £36.95. The amount for children has been reduced so there is now only an extra £3-£5 per child under 3. People without an open asylum claim may be eligible for section 4 support, e.g. when lodging an appeal or submitting evidence for a new claim. This support is now made onto a card which is accepted in certain shops rather than paper vouchers that used to be issued.

23

Stephen 04.13.17 at 2:08 pm

ZM: I guessed right, then. To help Atlantean immigrants integrate, I need to learn something of their language and customs, just (though to a lesser extent) as if I’d emigrated to Atlantis.

That sounds like an interesting activity. Trouble is, Atlanteans will not be the only immigrants to my country. There will be Batlanteans, Catlanteans, Datlanteans, Etlanteans, Fatlanteans … which new languages and customs can I ignore?

24

Philip 04.13.17 at 4:43 pm

Stephen, just off the top of my head. You could accept that some tax revenues should be used to support immigrants for language classes or just to recognise that immigrants will have less family and community support to draw on. Recognising that refugees will have gone through traumatic experiences and may need support for that or may want to just focus on the future and get on with their life. Also, Some information should be translated into commonly spoken languages.

When immigrants move near to where you live you could try and not see it as a threat and be welcoming and even challenge people who are hostile towards immigration. You can show an interest in the cultures of people you meet and if there is a community of people of a particular nationality near you then you could find out more about that culture.

If you work in a customer service role then you could be understanding that immigrants may not be aware of how things work and offer a bit more advice and support around navigating systems but try and not be patronising either. You could maybe support organisations that help to support immigrants. If you are an employer you could recognise that immigrants might not have the background and experiences you would normally expect but that means immigrants can offer something different to you.

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