A new report: “Chance or choice? Understanding why asylum seekers come to the UK” has been published by the Refugee Council. The report is the result of research undertaken by Professor Heaven Crawley, Director of the Centre for Migration Policy Research at the University of Swansea.

The findings say what anyone who has any knowledge of the experience of refugees already knows. That people seeking sanctuary have little, if any, choice over which country they claim asylum in, and that few know what to expect before they arrive. The result being that harsh policies which make the life of a refugee tougher after they have arrived in the UK have no demonstrable influence over whether people claim asylum in the UK.

Politicians and policy makers have constructed an asylum system that is designed to ‘make an example’ of unsuccessful claims by leaving people destitute and hopeless or indefinitely detained in profit-making prisons before deporting them in uncertain futures. In contrast Professor Crawley recommends that:

Asylum policy making should be based on solid evidence such as that provided in this report rather than on unfounded assumptions and misperceptions about the reasons why people come here.

Of course, with few exceptions, this report was largely ignored and misrepresented by the media, large sections of which continue to peddle the myth that asylum seekers are really economic migrants who had made their decision based on information about asylum systems, employment opportunities and access to welfare benefits. As one blogger put it:

[the report]…flies in the face of many minutes arduous research carried out by Daily Mail and Sun journalists who asked Dave from the bookies why he had heard Asylum Seekers were here. Prior research into this subject had implied that these people were in this country as they get £500 a week from the benefits agency, a free Mercedes Benz, a mobile phone and a council flat and to take part in terrorist outrages”