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Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Economic Migrants

Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Economic Migrants
Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Economic Migrants

Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Economic Migrants

The United Kingdom constitutes one of the countries that attracts more and more immigrants every year. More specifically, between March 2016 and 2017, 588,000 people migrated into the U.K within a year, with a result the net migration to reach approximately 250,000.[1] Even though at the same time 342,000 people emigrated from the U.K and a decline can be noticed compared to the immigration flow of 2015,[2] these numbers are still impressive with the U.K being the second European Union country welcoming the most foreigners.[3] However, all these people coming to the U.K have a different status according to which are entitled to distinct rights and obligations.

 

Refugees

According to Art. 1 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951, a person is granted the legal status of the refugee when due to “a well-founded fear of being prosecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion is outside of the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such a fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”.[4]

 

More specifically, the UNHCR figures indicate that by June 2016, 117,176 refugees could be found in the U.K, coming from Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Albania and India. Before being granted the status of the refugee, a person is considered being an asylum seeker and lives under Asylum Support.[5] The reasoning according to which the authorities decide whether someone falls under the category of the refugee, is that he can prove that his life would be at high risk in case that returned to him home country.[6]  However, as soon as, the status changes, the refugee has the right to stay U.K for a long-time period or indefinitely and he is entitled to Asylum Support for only 28 more days, from the day the decision has been taken.[7] That means that after this period of time lapses, the refugee will stop getting the monthly cash allowance to which it was entitled by then and will have to move to a different house in case that the state has given him somewhere to live as an asylum seeker.[8]

 

In any case, a refugee has the right to work in the U.K, at any profession and at any skill level that he wishes to. The U.K takes into consideration the factors that could possibly make it difficult for a refugee to seek or find a job quickly enough and offers considerable assistance.[9] For example, the Refugee Council offers free employment advice and support service to the refugees living in London, by providing them with one to one meetings where the refugees along with an expert can assess his skills and capabilities and set a realistic employment plan, by giving them access to employment preparation workshops and by offering help with job search in general, including resumes and interview preparation.[10] In case that a refugee has acquired a professional qualification in his home country and wishes to do the same job in the U.K, the UK NARIC provides significant services regarding the compatibility of the qualifications and how to effectively achieve it for a relatively small monetary charge.[11]

 

In the meantime, refugees are also entitled to welfare benefits such as, among others, Income Support in case they are have been learning the English language for at least a period of 15 weeks and have been in the U.K for a year or less, the Jobseeker’s Allowance in case they are looking for employment and can prove it, and the Employment and Support Allowance in case that a physical or mental disability prevents them from finding a job.[12] Even though the transition period from being an asylum seekers to becoming a refugee is the most challenging one, as most of these people end up being homeless[13] and with no income at all, the U.K has managed to put in place a social system that is trying, as much as possible, to promote the smooth and effective adaptation of refugees in the society.

 

For more information regarding the available support after getting the refugee status please visit: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/immigration/asylum-and-refugees/after-you-get-refugee-status/

 

Asylum Seekers

An asylum seeker is an individual who, due to threatening to his life and well-being, flees his home country and arrive to another country-in this case the U.K- by using whatever way possible for them.[14] According to Section 94 (1) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, is any person who “is not under 18 and has made a claim for asylum which has been recorded by the Secretary of State but not yet determined”.[15] When it comes to what exactly constitutes a claim for asylum, the same section mentions that it is a claim that if denied and the claimant is required to leave the country and exposed to dangerous conditions for his life by returning to his home country, then the U.K it would be violating its obligations under the Refugee Convention or under Art.3 of the European Convention of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1999.[16] More specifically, the asylum seekers claim in their refugee application that by returning back to their country of origin there is a “well-founded fear of being prosecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”, without this definition excluding the possibility of punishment and torture.[17]

 

The United Kingdom by being a member of the Refugee Convention and by having incorporated the European Convention of Human Rights within its legal system, has the obligation to fulfill the absolute right of the prohibition of torture not only by not subjecting human beings to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment but also by ensuring that by deporting asylum seekers, it is not, potentially, exposing those individuals to such treatments.[18] The asylum seekers must present themselves to U.K authorities as soon as they arrive in the country and await until a decision is taken.[19] In the meantime, the refugees will be put under Refugee Support which will offer them a weekly cash allowance of £36,95 and place to live somewhere.[20] In case that their application gets approved, they will acquire the legal status of the refugee and will be able to work and stay permanently in the U.K.[21] However, if their application gets rejected, they asylum seeker is denied protection and has leave to country as soon as possible unless they can prove that they have other legitimate reasons preventing from returning home or they decide to appeal the rejection of the authorities.[22]

 

Economic Migrants

An economic migrant, finally, is an individual who has left his country and came to the United Kingdom in order to make a better living by getting a better paid job than that he would be able to find in his own country and by having access to a better social benefits system.[23] In addition, a person seeking a job is possible to initially enter in the U.K either lawfully or unlawfully, without that affecting whether he will be eventually granted the status of the economic migrant.[24]

 

More specifically, an economic migrant does not usually move to the U.K due to a fear of being prosecuted for reasons of race, religion or nationality but mainly because of the abundant job and financial opportunities that can find there.[25] In any case, sometimes asylum seekers aim at being economic migrants by seeking not only protection but a better social and financial quality of life as well. However, it should be noted, that economic migrants cannot be granted the statues of the refugee with the online exception being proving the job opportunities and social being and even their life.[26] A very significant percentage of the economic migrants in the United Kingdom, the last 20 years, consists of European Union citizens who by taking advantage of the free movement of people within the Union, are entitled to lawfully reside and look for work opportunities in the U.K.[27]

 

The European citizens, in addition, have access to all the social benefits and pensions schemes and enjoy the same rights and obligations as the U.K citizens.[28]  Furthermore, the European Union migrants constitute over 20% of the overall labor force of the United Kingdom, dominating, among others, mainly the sectors of vegetable, fruit and meat “processing and preservation”, bakery products and stone industries.[29] The E.U migration peaked in year 2015, when the net migration reached 184,000 of which the impressive percentage of 84% moved in the U.K. for work related reasons.[30]

 

The Brexit referendum, however, have had as a result, for the E.U migration, not only to decrease gradually the last two years but also for many European Union citizens living and working in the U.K for many years either return back to their countries to move in to another European Union state which will offer them equally good employment opportunities and at the same time certainty for the future.[31] With the E.U migrants having such an impact upon the functioning of the U.K sections, a possible voluntary or involuntary departure of theirs from the country can been proven highly harmful for the overall economy.[32]

 

Thus, as it is understandable, even though the United Kingdom has been attracting, for many years now, foreigners from all over the world, who wish to reside either temporarily or permanently here, at the same time it has taken very effective measures. The U.K seems to have developed a very well structured immigration system that protects the different types of immigrants and determines their position in accordance to the relevant legal conditions and criteria. It only remains to be seen now how the upcoming realization of the Brexit will reshape the immigration schemes in place and will affect the country in its entirety.

 

[1] Office for National Statistics, ‘Migration Statistics Quarterly Report’ (Office for National Statistics , 25 May 2017)<https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/internationalmigration/bulletins/migrationstatisticsquarterlyreport/may2017>accessed 26 November 2017.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Eurostat: Statistics Explained, ‘Migration and Migrant Population Statistics’ (Eurostat: Statistics Explained, 27 March 2017) <http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Migration_and_migrant_population_statistics#Further_Eurostat_information> accessed 26 November 2017.

[4] UN General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 28 July 1951, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189, p. 137.

 

[5] UNHCR, ‘Asylum in the UK’ (UNHCR; The UN Refugee Agency, December 2016) <http://www.unhcr.org/uk/asylum-in-the-uk.html> accessed 26 November 2017.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Citizens Advice, ‘After you Get Refugee Status’ (Citizens Advice, 2017) <https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/immigration/asylum-and-refugees/after-you-get-refugee-status/>accessed 26 November 2017.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Refugee Council , ‘Refugee Employment Advice & Support Service’ (Refugee Council: Supporting and Empowering Refugees, 2017)<https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/what_we_do/refugee_services/refugees_into_jobs/refugee_employment_advice_support_service> accessed 26 November 2017.

 

[11] UK NARIC, ‘Services for individuals’ (UK NARIC, 2017) <https://www.naric.org.uk/naric/individuals/> accessed 26 November 2017.

[12] Citizens Advice, ‘After you Get Refugee Status’ (Citizens Advice, 2017) <https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/immigration/asylum-and-refugees/after-you-get-refugee-status/>accessed 26 November 2017.

[13] Kate Lyons, ‘Asylum Seekers Forced into Homelessness by Paperwork Delays, Study Finds’ (The Guardian, 10 July 2017)<https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/10/asylum-seekers-forced-into-homelessness-support-applications> accessed 26 November 2017.

[14] UNHCR, ‘Asylum in the UK’ (UNHCR; The UN Refugee Agency, December 2016) <http://www.unhcr.org/uk/asylum-in-the-uk.html> accessed 26 November 2017.

[15] Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Jean-François Akandji-kombe, ‘Positive Obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights’ (Council of Europe, January 2007) <https://rm.coe.int/168007ff4d>accessed 26 November 2017.

[19] British Red Cross, ‘Refugee facts and figures’ (British Red Cross, 2017) <http://www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Refugee-support/Refugee-facts-and-figures> accessed 26 November 2017.

 

[20] Citizens Advice, ‘After you Get Refugee Status’ (Citizens Advice, 2017) <https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/immigration/asylum-and-refugees/after-you-get-refugee-status/>accessed 26 November 2017.

[21] British Red Cross, ‘Refugee facts and figures’ (British Red Cross, 2017) <http://www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Refugee-support/Refugee-facts-and-figures> accessed 26 November 2017.

[22] Ibid.

[23] British Red Cross, ‘Refugee facts and figures’ (British Red Cross, 2017) <http://www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Refugee-support/Refugee-facts-and-figures> accessed 26 November 2017

[24] Ibid.

[25] UNHCR, ‘Asylum in the UK’ (UNHCR; The UN Refugee Agency, December 2016) <http://www.unhcr.org/uk/asylum-in-the-uk.html> accessed 26 November 2017.

[26] UNHCR, ‘Asylum in the UK’ (UNHCR; The UN Refugee Agency, December 2016) <http://www.unhcr.org/uk/asylum-in-the-uk.html> accessed 26 November 2017.

[27] European Union, Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, 13 December 2007, 2008/C 115/01.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Jamie Doward &Harry Robertson, ‘EU migrants make up over 20% of labour force in 18 British industries’ (The Guardian, 29 July 2017)<https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/29/eu-workers-fifth-labour-force-18-sectors-britain-economy> accessed 26 November 2017.

[30] Office for National Statistics, ‘Migration Statistics Quarterly Report’ (Office for National Statistics, 25 May 2017)<https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/internationalmigration/bulletins/migrationstatisticsquarterlyreport/may2017>accessed 26 November 2017.

[31] David Reed, ‘Immigration and the UK’s post-Brexit economy’ (The Guardian, 7 September 2017) <https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/07/immigration-and-the-uks-post-brexit-economy> accessed 26 November 2017.

 

[32] Ibid.

Article by Elizabeth Ntilo