A recent episode of the BBC Wales’ current affairs programme Week In Week Out was on the subject of refugee destitution. It followed the lives of five people in Wales, highlighting the inhumane treatment they have experienced while claiming asylum in the UK. All fled dangerous situations and came to the UK with hopes for a better life. Some of them had to leave their entire families, including children that they have not seen for many years. Although they are in some ways safer living here, the programme also showed that they have to endure extremely difficult living conditions and certainly don’t have the ‘life of Riley’ that one commentator suggests.

A glaringly obvious factual error, that we would not expect from the “reputable BBC research team”, was that one of those interviewed received the same benefits as a Welsh woman whilst her claim was being considered, a media fuelled myth that you would hope a programme such as this would be trying to combat. The reality is that asylum applicants only receive 70% of the basic income support that UK citizens are entitled to, that’s around £35 as opposed to £50, with many receiving this support solely in the form of vouchers, redeemable at major supermarkets such as Tescos. An amount well below the poverty line.

destitution2The programme showed in a fairly superficial manner, what it obviously considered to be a balanced view of the asylum regime in the UK, featuring the opinions of those who take a particularly punitive stance and those who believe asylum applicants should be treated with compassion. No offence is meant to those who offer support to asylum seeking migrants in the UK; they came across as people who truly wished to better the living conditions of migrants and indeed often do. The lives of the asylum applicants who bravely agreed to be interviewed, were shown to be filled with desperation, struggle, destitution and immobility due to restrictions enforced by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), a far cry from lives filled with plentiful handouts as some media sources would have us believe. But what the programme did not even attempt to explore was whether the asylum regime in the UK and the fundamental principles holding it up are right or not. Whether a legal system protecting the rights of the rich should be able to enforce destitution on those who did not have luck on their side when their claim had been rejected.

beans_destitutionThe programme closes asking the question ‘are asylum seekers getting a fair deal?’ It is clear they are not. Such a regime can never be fair. This is one of the many reasons why we call for the abolition of all borders. For as long as there have been people, they have moved in search of a better life. Migration controls are an oppressive, racist construct. Rather than blaming migrants for many of our current problems we need to be focusing on the real culprits, the rich. As banks are given billions of pounds in public money the government continues with its intensification of border controls, which serves perfectly its strategy of divide and rule. It is only by seeing our common interests as working class people, regardless of where we are born, that we will be able to bring about a world of equality where people are free to live in diginity, where and how they choose. You can watch the programme on BBC iplayer for a limited time.

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