Stop demonising asylum seekers and fix the broken system instead

Creator unknown. Many have pointed out that the Murdoch figure needs a mountain of cookies to represent the inequality

We are in a cost of living crisis. People are struggling to juggle heating their homes and feeding themselves and their children. It is utterly ridiculous to think that headlines like “asylum seekers are living in luxury hotels” won’t cut through.

The simple fact of the matter is that, for the most part, the hotels asylum seekers are living in aren’t “luxury” by any definition. They’re the cheapest ones which the Home Office can secure, while allowing some private contractors providing accommodation to see their profits double…

That doesn’t mean a lot to people struggling, though; if we are being honest, it is understandable why people would think it is unfair that those seeking asylum get anything when people in the UK are unable to afford basics and left with seven eighths of bugger all.

Money is being wasted, though: the government has spent about £150 million on a deal with Rwanda which their own legal advisors warned from the start was illegal. By contrast, it would cost, roughly, £20m to have resourced the asylum system to process claims faster.

Processing claims faster means less time while people wait for a response, and less time during which they have to stay in hotels, so less cost to the taxpayer. Having properly-trained staff means claims are processed more effectively resulting in fewer appeals, and, again, less cost.

Backlogs in the asylum system have been rising rapidly for about the last seven years. The increase in waiting times is entirely disproportionate from the actual number of people seeking asylum, which has remained fairly stable overall.

Even with slight increases this year, the overall numbers are significantly below numbers seen twenty years ago, when there was no such backlog or accommodation pressure. There is no “invasion”. There is a complete failure of the Home Office to process claims. Backlogs and costs have risen because of government policies. It’s a false economy, but it makes for good politics and headlines.

Last year only 4 per cent of applications were processed. That’s not the fault of people crossing the channel. It is entirely the fault of the current Home Secretary, and previous incumbents, who have under-resourced the asylum system in some clumsy attempt to create a non-issue they can “solve”.

Carrying on the annual ritual of signing “the deal to end it all” with France isn’t a solution though. It is just paying out yet more money on a policy which has been proven not to work. We need that money being put into the asylum system.

Think about the old adage: “a stitch in time saves nine”. Actually properly funding an asylum system which processed applications effectively would cost far less than the current one, which appears to delay applications deliberately.

That saved money can then be put into local communities to develop the infrastructure needed – not just for asylum seekers, but for everyone who needs it. £100m+ goes a long way to helping the homeless, veterans, people struggling etc.

Are all asylum seekers good people? Of course not. In any group of people you will have the nasty ones. Does the minority of the minority mean we should exclude everyone? Most would say not, but some will still have fears.

What are those fears, though? Asylum seekers aren’t above the law. If they break it, and, much as some may wish to believe otherwise, seeking asylum isn’t breaking the law, but if they do genuinely break the law, they can be arrested for it, just like anyone else.

You fairly obviously can’t punish someone for a crime they haven’t committed or haven’t been charged with, but you absolutely can if you have the evidence. So, unless you are saying we need to arrest people before they have committed a crime…

It’s not simple. Anyone who tells you it is, is either lying or a fool, but you cannot deny whole groups of people protection, and you can’t claim it saves money to do so. We need better options. Ones which don’t demonise those seeking safety.

Stand for All  is a human rights advocacy and support organisation, providing professional advice and support to a range of organisations and individuals.