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Refugee and asylum seeker myth busters

Beyond the refugee statistics and headlines are children and young people trying to make a life for themselves. Every day is a new challenge. Media stereotypes and political scaremongering don’t help. Here we uncover common misconceptions and bust myths about young refugees and asylum seekers. Through understanding, we can help these young people build brighter futures.

Refugees are the same as asylum seekers

Legally, no. By UK law, a ‘refugee’ is someone who has been granted legal protection by the British state after leaving their home through fear of persecution. An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for protection but is still waiting for an answer. But legal definitions don’t decide our identity.

'Refugee' may be how someone defines themselves after fleeing their country, whether they’ve been granted protection or not. Young asylum seekers might prefer the term 'refugee' because it validates their experiences. Or maybe they prefer neither of these labels. How would you define 'refugee'?

Claiming asylum is easy

Claiming asylum is easy

It's not. Claiming asylum can take years. It’s confusing and it’s different for everyone. Many of those we work with are still waiting, meaning they’re unable to think about their future, plan, move on from the trauma they’ve faced.

‘During that time, I didn’t know if I could go college or work. I didn’t even know if I could have a place to live or get my allowance.’

Even those who are trafficked, forced to work on cannabis farms throughout their childhood, have to battle to prove their right to stay here. We help them talk to solicitors, arrange appointments, keep them hopeful about their case.

young man looking worried at interview

Claiming asylum is a choice

Not true. A young person we work through the Guardians campaign says it best:

'People will never choose to leave their family, childhood home and friends to come here and struggle. They have to do this because they want a safe life. When you have to flee your home, you want to try to make things better for you and for your family. It is all a struggle and people will never understand unless they have gone through the same. The journey to leave your home is not easy -  to come to another country, to learn everything again.’  

Refugees are scam artists

young woman outside looking up smiling

Refugees are scam artists what some news channels and politicians want you to believe. They imply that people claiming asylum in the UK have an intimate knowledge of the UK’s benefits system and they’ve come here to take advantage. This isn’t the case.

Only a small number of refugees in Europe come to the UK and the benefits are limited. Most come because they have friends or relatives here, or they hope our society will be warm and welcoming to different cultures.  

Refugees are scam artists part two

I want to show people not to see me in a negative way I want to show people not to see me in a negative way

When the Home Office accuse refugees of lying about their age, it fuels misconceptions. In many cases, young people genuinely won’t know their age.

We work with those from Afghanistan who don’t celebrate birthdays and have no central record of births or deaths, so it’s reasonable to be unsure over how old they are.

But it's in the local authorities’ interest to find someone to be older than their claimed age, because then they can relinquish responsibility. They can discharge them and not provide any further support.

young man looking strong sun setting in the trees behind him

Supporting young refugees

Every child should have the chance to be safe, happy and achieve their dreams, regardless of their or their parents' immigration status. Our services give young refugees, asylum seekers and migrants hope for a better future.

Asylum seekers get all the benefits

Some people think claiming asylum is a free pass to the welfare state. It is not. The only entitlement asylum seekers have to benefits is the asylum support service. It’s not much. And the housing offered is often that which landlords can’t shift. It could be anywhere in the UK. Often damp and infested. Cut off from support.

When you say you are an asylum seeker, people look at you different. They just think you are here for benefits

Our services make up for the lack of support. We help them access education, talk about their trauma, meet people in the community. Without our refugee services and volunteers, many more young people would be completed isolated from the support they need.

Asylum seekers are criminals

young woman in blue hijab and smart black top looking at camera

Asylum seekers are criminals

They are not, but many are treated like criminals. Many find themselves in a parole-style system while they wait for settled status. They must go and report to the Home Office on a regular basis. This is known as ‘immigration bail’. You go. You queue for an hour or more. Get stamped. Return when they tell you.

It should only be for those at risk of absconding but this isn’t the case. It actually makes young people more afraid they will be deported and increases the risk of them going 'underground'.

Refugees don't give back

Not only untrue but also irrelevant. Looking after one another shouldn't be a transaction. That said, the young refugees we work with are some of the strongest, kindest, compassionate people we know.

They don’t just want to make a life for themselves, they want to help others. A group of young people known as the YLCSC know how hard it is for unaccompanied and separated children to arrive in the UK alone. Many of them have been through it. They are campaigning so these young people have someone looking out from them, to stand by their side throughout the asylum process. They won't stop until they've created this change.

Asylum is a privilege

Asylum is a human right, not a luxury. Everyone has the right to feel safe and live free from fear. It doesn't matter how you get to that place. It doesn't matter your race or religion.

It is your right to feel protected