Asylum seeker dispersal is little more than a perceived problem with a simple solution

In today’s Guardian, it has been reported that a commons select committee has called for asylum seekers to be housed in the UK shire counties. The article noted that the highest proportion of asylum seekers are placed in Glasgow (3067), Birmingham (1674) and Liverpool (1524) with Bolton (1023), Rochdale (1020) and Manchester (954) coming in at fifth, sixth and seventh respectively. However, it is apparent that Greater Manchester and the West Midlands area – when taken as units rather than individual cities and satellite towns – take the highest proportion of asylum seekers in the country by a considerable margin. The BBC offers slightly different figures but the order of council areas taking the highest proportion remains the same.

The article notes that many areas of the country house no destitute asylum seekers at all. For example, the Home Secretary’s Maidenhead constituency, the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s East Cheshire council area and the Prime Minister’s West Oxfordshire council to name but a few. Again, this BBC map showing dispersal of asylum seekers clearly highlights their concentration in particular areas. Evidently, the policy is to send asylum seekers to the lowest cost urban areas possible, which has led to the concentration.

I want to make three brief observations:

Concentration in low-cost, urban areas is inevitable with private contracts

One is at a loss to work out why it comes as a shock to anybody that G4S, Serco and Clearsprings have elected to place asylum seekers in the very cheapest housing possible in non-expensive, insalubrious urban areas (1). In fact, for the most part, asylum seekers are placed in “hard to let” homes; that is, housing that nobody wants to rent because it is considered sub-standard. It is therefore hard to see how these private companies have in any way failed. If the government has placed no restriction on where they could place asylum seekers (2), why on earth would you expect to see them placing individuals in high cost housing in highly sought after areas?

If the government truly want to see a dispersal policy enacted properly, they have only one of three ways to make it happen. Either they: (a) place total restrictions on housing asylum seekers in certain areas; (b) insist on one place for all asylum seekers for a certain period of time and then periodically move the allocated area; or, (c) they take away the private contracts and allow a government agency to place asylum seekers proportionately throughout the country making no reference to profit.

Of course, the fundamental issue with (a) and (b) is that G4S, Serco and Clearsprings may well decide to pull out of their contracts if they are forced to place asylum seekers in areas of higher cost housing given the severe dent this move would have on their bottom line. Should they be prepared to take this hit, however, these are the options available. Nonetheless, it bears saying that there is something ever so slightly sickening about the monetisation of people in desperate need and something similarly concerning about the monetisation of a policy that has the inflammatory power to spark riots.

Even in the areas of highest concentration, asylum seekers are not swamping anyone

If we take Glasgow as an example, the area with the largest number of asylum seekers, we note that the city has a population of just under 600,000. Currently, Glasgow houses little over 3000 asylum seekers. This amounts to 0.5% of the population of the area. To take a wider example, Greater Manchester as a whole outstrips most other areas of the country for asylum seekers (3). Greater Manchester has a total population of 2.7m people. The number of asylum seekers living in the region, according to the Manchester Evening News, is 5586. This amounts to 0.21% of the region.

Though there is certainly a case to be made about the fairness of dispersal, it would be false to pretend that a lack of dispersal is putting undue pressure on local amenities. For one, there are truly not enough asylum seekers in any given place to represent a huge drain on local services. Equally, central government pay asylum seeker support meaning no money is taken from council tax for support. The only affect on any given area would be if a growing number of asylum seekers are placed in the region and all choose to stay there if and when they receive their leave to remain. However, given the minuscule percentages we are discussing, the probability of this becoming a real issue is highly unlikely. Moreover, once leave to remain is granted, these same people will begin working as well as paying income and council tax paying.

A solution to the perceived dispersal problem

One possible solution to the perceived problem (and I stress, it is more a perception than a reality) is for the government to give local councils a premium for each asylum seeker housed within their area (akin to the pupil premium within schools). Those who vehemently refuse to house asylum seekers can do so but would lose extra funds as a result. This would give local councils a positive incentive to house asylum seekers but would also offer choice to those who would rather they were placed elsewhere. Those who are viewing the figures with any measure of sense would come to the obvious conclusion that such small numbers will not disproportionately affect the local area whilst the offer of extra money to offset what is clearly only a perceived issue ought to make the decision the proverbial no-brainer. This would go a considerable way to solving the problem of disproportionate dispersal.

Again, the only problem with this would be the private contractors involved. If they were forced to place asylum seekers in certain higher cost areas, in response to local councils recognising the benefits of a premium, is it likely that Serco, G4S and Clearsprings would be happy to see a dent in their profits with no additional benefit to them as a company? It may only be a workable solution if either: (a) the private companies still see value in their contracts even though they are forced to place in higher cost housing/areas; or, (b) if the government remove the private contracts and take the housing of those in desperate need back into public control.

Notes

  1. I’m not suggesting the places names are insalubrious, I mean the areas within the towns where asylum seekers are usually placed are often insalubrious (with some exceptions).
  2. To my knowledge, the only restriction is on the placement of those with no right to work (that is, the vast majority of asylum seekers) anywhere within Greater London.
  3. Only the West Midlands would rival it.

15 comments

  1. Sorry I think you are over-complicating a very simple matter. ALL the “asylum seekers” as you insist on euphemistically referring to them, should be sent to ONE constituency, that is, the constituency of the arch-hypocrite, Theresa May. Anything else would be a miscarriage of justice, the very department she is supposed to be watching over.

    Seriously though, wouldn’t it be better if we introduced some honesty into the proceedings, and admitted that we really just do not know, or have any way of knowing, how many are genuine asylum seekers, and how many are opportunistic economic immigrants?

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    1. Asylum seeker is not a euphemism, it is precisely what they are (whether legit or not). They are refugees if found legitimate and deported if not. Irrespective of the merits of their case, they are seeking asylum. The term is valid and appropriate.

      You will note I suggested the possibility of placing all ASs in one place. I fail to see how placing them all in Theresa May’s constituency is any fairer. I can see a valid case for saying she should have some. All would rather seem to be causing the same problem.

      As for not knowing who is legit or not, that is what due process is for, to determine exactly that. It sounds as though you are shooting in the direction of saying because we cannot know who is legitimate (a claim I don’t share) we shouldn’t grant asylum to any. That would be a draconian and harsh approach (if that is what is behind your comment).

      Having worked with enough asylum seekers, and having plenty in my church, I am aware of how legitimate various respective cases can be. It is simply false to suggest that we cannot know who is legitimate. I have been to enough court cases and seen enough types of evidence to know that is simply not true.

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      1. As usual for a man of the cloth, you see only the plight of the individuals in your midst. You are blinded to the bigger picture. You do not realize I have known and loved many Muslims. I would risk my life to protect them from harm, them the living human beings, not them the “Muslims”. The problem you cannot see, due to your idealistic world view, is that there is a bigger issue at stake. Our society is becoming poisoned by an ideology that encourages brutality towards the most vulnerable in our society, the children and women. You deny that the ideology is anything to do with the actions of those who profess to follow it. But tell me this, reverend, when you stand in your pulpit, and tell your congregation to “love their neighbour”, were not those the words of Jesus? Did he not tell us to love our neighbour? Do these words mean nothing at all? Are they just empty words? Do you look down on me from your pulpit, because I dare to speak the truth against this ideology? Can we love a neighbour that is taught to despise us, and may rape our children, because they were taught from their earliest days that our children are the vilest of animals? Perhaps we can try, but is it wise?

        Do you not realize there are now millions, possibly hundreds of millions, of Muslims now banging on the gates of Europe, demanding to be let in? Do you not see the danger? They bring with them an ideology which will sweep away all the good you seek to do. There has to be a point where we say no. Did you see what happened in Cologne at New Year? Have you listened to what takes place in Calais? Have you read all the reports of sexual assaults now flooding in from all of the countries who tried hardest to help the “refugees”? Would you let them ALL in and THEN decide who is entitled and who is not? How will you manage to return those you deem not entitled? You are creating a humanitarian crisis by trying too hard to do good.

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      2. “That would be a draconian and harsh approach (if that is what is behind your comment).”

        Yes it is what is behind my comment. The migrant crisis is blighting the lives of people across Europe. You should listen to the testimony of people in Greece who are suffering the worst. Of people in Calais who are afraid to cross the town. You don’t read about their stories in your BBC and Guardian reports, because your leftie media people can’t face the truth. We have to take a draconian and harsh approach now, because your fellow “well meaning” people like Angela Merkel have created a climate where huge numbers of people think that the doors of Europe are wide open.

        When you say I am proposing a draconian and harsh approach, where are YOU going to draw the line? How many millions of “asylum seekers” are you going to let in before you do that, before you too climb down from your sanctimonious high horse and become harsh and draconian as well? Will a hundred million Muslims be too many for you? This many will destroy Christianity in Europe. It will destroy free speech and democracy. Women will have to stay indoors. Its already happening in Germany. Don’t you care?

        As to the idea that failed asylum seekers are deported, you are making a sick joke. You know that rarely happens. The few attempts to deport people are often met with legal challenges thanks to your Labour party EU laws. Some of the migrants are coming from southern African countries, a long way away. A lot are coming from Afghanistan. Why don’t they stay and fight the tyranny? Didn’t your Labour party send our service people over there to sort the country out? How many were killed or injured? Don’t Afghans have any responsibility for the affairs of their own country? Why is it that only our service people have to die to straighten their country out? Do you have the slightest idea how much it will cost just to return one single migrant to Afghanistan? Are you hoping the UK will go bankrupt? Have you any idea what misery that will cause in the UK?

        The line has to be drawn somewhere, you are helping to cause a lot of misery in the long run by encouraging the nightmare to continue. Face the truth.

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      3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/12183475/Asylum-seekers-arriving-in-Europe-doubled-to-1.2-million-last-year.html

        “Britain is powerless to deport thousands of illegal migrants because they have nowhere to go, a Home Office minister has admitted, as new figures showed asylum seekers arriving in Europe more than doubled last year. ”

        “This deportation sounds easy, it sounds a common sense thing to do. But the truth is most of these illegal migrants have got no place to be deported to.

        “I accept under the Dublin Convention they can be deported back to the country that they came but I think most people would accept that’s no answer.”

        http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33849593

        “David Cameron under fire after Government figures revealed that 175,000 asylum seekers are awaiting deportation from the UK”

        http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/50000-illegal-immigrants-gone-missing-4526096

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  2. That seems to admit there is a problem. If all the asylum seekers are bogus, why is it any problem to return them? If they are fleeing something, why bot grant asylum? You cannot argue they are illegitimate AND they cannot be deported because “that is no solution”. If they aren’t in danger, why not deport? If in danger, why not grant asylum?

    As for the other comments, I live in an area of the country which receives 1 in 4 of all asylum seekers in the UK. I am quite aware of whether such people “blight the lives” of those around them. I mention again, I have been involved in the cases of enough asylum seekers to know that it is indeed possible to know whether some are bogus or not. I am also aware of the nature of what many are fleeing and it is incredible one would consider the nature of some of these cases as undeserving of help. Your suggestion that no help should be given such people should rightly be treated with the derision it deserves.

    As for your unsubtle references to “your Labour Party”, why do you presume I am affiliated to any party? Equally, why presume this is party political? There are supporters of every party (even including UKIP) who would reject your suggestion above.

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    1. All the lines in my last post were comments from a home office minister, not from me, in the articles I gave. Sorry I should have made that clearer but the lines were in quotes.

      The reasons it is difficult to deport people are as follows:

      1. Migrants are deliberately losing documents and claiming to be from Syria because they know they get fast tracked that way. Its often just not clear where the migrants are from. In that case where on earth do you send them back to? I have read this repeatedly in news articles.

      2. It costs an awful lot of money (one estimate in the articles I quoted above was £11,000 for a forced deportation, but I believe that is a huge underestimate for example does it include the cost of tracking down and arresting the migrant and a host of other costs. Sometimes the migrants are detained for years in asylum centres, the per year cost alone for that must be in excess of £11,000.). Our country is already £1.5 trillion in debt. A huge wave of migrants could push us into bankruptcy. Greece is already on the edge.

      3. Migrants have a habit of disappearing into society – see above headline 50,000 gone missing. Not a small number.

      4. The country of origin may refuse to take them back.

      I assumed you were a Labour supporter because you say you are left leaning on the about pages, apologies if you are not.

      My most important question you have not answered yet, namely, would you ever decide to put a cap on the numbers you would allow into the country prior to deciding if they were genuine cases? Would 100 million be too many? I’m asking this question not hypothetically but because there is a population explosion going on in Africa right now. We may only have seen the tip of the iceberg so far. That is why we are under so much pressure. That is why I am so concerned, 100 million is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

      You also did not answer my question if the people have any responsibility for the problems they are running away from. If all the best people run away (maybe you are dealing with the clever ones who get away), who will be left to help those who cannot run away? Are you aware that the number of men as a percentage of the migrants (according to the UNHCR) has fluctuated between 75% and 44% of the total. The percentage of women on the other hand is much smaller, currently only 20% compared to that 44%. How do you account for that? If they are really fleeing danger as you say, why are they leaving their womenfolk behind? This does not make sense, especially at the 75%/12% ratio.

      The bigger point about all this, is that there are lots of people in the world who live in bad or desperate circumstances. We simply cannot host them all. Why should just those who are rich, smart or just plain lucky enough to reach the UK be given the privilege of settling here? You constantly seem to be attacking me from a moral high point ” rightly be treated with the derision it deserves” but you avoid answering my difficult questions. Your viewpoint may be affected by the fact that you are possibly dealing with just the first arrivals, and with people who followed the correct application process, rather than trying to break into lorries and hitch a lift like that illegally. I believe it is the asylum system that is attracting the “bogus” seekers and illegals. The word is getting round that you are very unlikely to be deported even if you fail, the goal is just to get here. How many cases are you aware of that were successfully deported? That is why I am suggesting we have to take a tough line in order to stop this human tsunami that is coming our way.

      Apologies if any of the tone of my comments above was impolite, but I am really worried about our children’s future, yours and mine.

      Anyway if you don’t really want to debate this fair enough, I appreciate it is a very large and difficult subject.

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  3. The reason I pick up on the quote you offer (which I did note was a quote) was that by quoting it you are using it to offer support for your position. Clearly the minister stating it recognises there is an issue with sending people back to their country which is not based on inability as he notes “that is no solution”. It seems to recognise there is a problem. I am aware of plenty of Iranian asylum seekers who are not flying under the radar and could be deported if the government were willing. It is cruel on them as they are left in limbo and simultaneously upsets people like yourself. The government will not deport them because to do so would be “too dangerous”. They want to deny on the one hand that there is any problem i.e. the claim is bogus whilst, on the other, will not deport back to Iran because to do so would certainly lead to either death or torture. It is an untenable position on the part of the government.

    The reasons you offer for the difficulty in sending people back do not hold up to scrutiny for the following reasons:

    1. The fast-track process has been known to be highly unfair and works against asylum claims. If it really is true that individuals are losing documents and claiming to be from Syria to be fast-tracked, this will actually work against them. The presumption in the courts is that folk do not need asylum unless they can provide tangible evidence that they are in real need of it. If they have been fast-tracked and offer no evidence, their claim will be rejected. Simply being “from Syria” does not lead to refugee status. There is no automatic entrance just because you are from a particular country (even Syria). So it makes no difference if they claim to be from Syria or not, this is not automatic entrance. Even were it (which it isn’t), there is a due process to assess the validity of that claim.

    2. The detention centres exist purely for those who are deemed a flight risk whilst the due process is taking place. So, rather than representing a problem for your position, they actually exist to solve it. The people placed in detention (theoretically), are those the government are worried will try to disappear under the radar once they are here. The vast majority of people claiming asylum are placed in NASS housing whilst awaiting a decision, which means paying for housing and support anyway. The detention centres are no more expensive than offering housing and support to those awaiting a decision (something we are tied to by international law). Though the debt is not an insignificant issue, many British people are simply not comfortable sending people back to places where they may be killed or tortured based on cost alone. It seems entirely right that humanitarian help will cost us something (and that is before we get to the legality of doing that anyway).

    3. The 50,000 missing are not asylum seekers. They are migrants who have arrived on a variety of visas for a variety of reasons. The UK only has c. 31,000 asylum seekers altogether. Your 50,000 figure is more than the number of asylum seekers in the country! The vast majority of asylum seekers, unlike migrants, are finger printed and must regularly sign on to maintain support. Those considered more likely to abscond are asked to sign on more regularly. They are also visited regularly by support officers and housing officers who similarly keep tabs on them. You are, in your figures, equating migrants and asylum seekers (who are legally and actually two different groups of people). We know exactly how many ASs are in the country because they must present themselves as such upon arrival to be treated as one.

    I would not put an arbitrary cap on numbers, no. Mainly because, at the moment, there is simply no need. As I say, we have applications for 31,000 asylum seekers at the moment and we reject around half of those as it stands. Last year, we deported 14,000. So it is simply not true that we cannot deport failed asylum seekers nor is your suggested figure of 100 million asylum seekers coming to the UK even close to likely. I would rather continue to assess cases based on need rather than according to an arbitrary number that bears no relevance to the reality.

    I do not think people in danger of death or torture have any duty to remain and make a better society back home, no. I would not be terribly pleased if I was threatened with death, torture, prison or a combination thereof and was greeted by calls to remain in my country and somehow tough it out in order to make the issues better. One wonders how you expect these folk to make things better whilst being tortured in prison? That is an absolutely incredible response! Similarly, you seem to misunderstand how and why most asylum seekers leave their country. One does not hang around to collect up one’s things when told you are up for arrest and face penalty of death.

    Also, your comments about those who follow the “correct application process, rather than trying to break into lorries and hitch a lift like that illegally” shows that you do not understand the system at all. There is no legal way to enter the country as an asylum seeker. Just about all will arrive on the back of a lorry or some such because most have no opportunity to (a) pick up a passport and (b) if they are being chased by the government or police, cannot simply arrive at an airport and go through security without being arrested and facing the very things they are seeking to escape!

    The law on asylum seekers recognises this very issue. The law is very clear that however one arrives, one must claim asylum as soon as possible after arrival. The longer one waits to do this the more likely this will count against your claim. The only asylum seekers who enter legally and then claim asylum would be those who enter on work or student visas and then their home country changes during their time abroad or they end up doing something here (eg sending information via the internet back home to a country with highly restricted internet access). Nonetheless, such people in the latter group are in a tiny minority.

    For those reasons, I don’t share your view.

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    1. Ok thanks for those answers they were illuminating. I have no doubt you have more knowledge of the mechanics of the UK system from your first hand experience.

      When you say “It is an untenable position on the part of the government.”, I think the reality of this is that they are politicians, trying to conceal facts. They should just say the truth, I think people can understand it. My point in repeating those quotes and debating this whole issue is that the whole asylum system, even the concept of asylum itself, is broken and needs to be rethought.

      1. What you say about the fast track system may be absolutely true in the UK. The problem is that in Germany, the situation I described is exactly what has been happening, according to media reports. My concerns are much wider than just the UK, and make no mistake I am not trying to fix minor details of the asylum system here. People in Greece, Germany, France particularly are facing major problems, we should share the responsibility because our policies and attitudes are part of the pull factor that is causing the problems in those countries as well. I am challenging the entire concept and the attitudes that created it, which you seem to hold.

      2. My point about cost is not so much about the current situation. If the problem becomes so large that we begin to default then the problems are going to be very serious and real, affecting not just asylum seekers but everybody in the country. You may think such a situation is far away, but it is not. Many European banks have lent money to Greece. All EU countries are groaning under the weight of national debt. Another huge financial crisis even bigger than the one that occurred in 2008 could be just around the corner and could trigger a much larger crisis for governments than the last time around.

      3. I am equating migrants and asylum seekers, yes, absolutely. An asylum seeker is just one type of migrant. An asylum seeker may not even be fleeing any type of danger, he may be bogus. I call all migrants migrants, and all spades spades. Explain this to me. An asylum seeker is supposed to register as such in the first country he arrives in. There are no neighbouring countries in a state of war, there are no neighbouring countries with a human rights crisis, the nearest one is many countries away. Therefore anybody who registers for asylum in the UK is not a legitimate asylum seeker, according to the rule of first safe country. The reason the chaos in Calais is occurring is because those people are hoping to register first in the UK, not France, or enter illegally. Why is that? It is because we are not facing the big issues. The UK is too attractive for these people.

      “I would not put an arbitrary cap on numbers, no. Mainly because, at the moment, there is simply no need.”

      Ok, thank you for your honesty. That suggests that were the numbers large enough you would consider harsh and draconian measures as well, and so you are not on such a higher moral plane than I am after all.

      “That is an absolutely incredible response! “. Moral posturing again. How do you think brutal regimes are ever overthrown, if not by such bravery as people staying and facing those terrible odds?

      “Similarly, your use of figures re men shows a misunderstanding of how asylum seekers leave the country. One does not hang around to collect up their things when they are told we are coming to arrest you and put you to death. ”

      This is the incredible response! Are you suggesting that women are mere belongings of men, to be left behind? Especially considering the brutal rapes that are going on in the countries in question! I’m sure you must not have thought about what you were saying carefully there! Truly shocking. Surely the women would be fleeing these situations much faster than the men anyway! I can tell you my very first priority would be getting my wife out of such a situation first. She would not be safe alone in such a society. Why you think women would not be fleeing such places in at least equal numbers is totally beyond me. Also, what this comment betrays is that you apply the situations of the few migrants who are genuinely in immediate mortal danger and assume that all the migrants are in these situations, when in fact those are the small minority of situations. That is a problem I think underlying your entire way of thinking.

      My figure was not 100,000 million it was actually 100 million, I’m sure that was just miss-type by you, not a problem. I don’t believe 100 million is as fanciful as you suggest, there is a population explosion going on in Africa. A much smaller number of migrants, just a few million could destabilise Europe to the point where civil strife becomes commonplace. It looks likely at least as many will be heading to Europe this year as last. A policeman at the Cologne event stated that the situation resembled a civil war zone, Calais and other places have significant problems already. You should watch some footage from the island of Lesbos and places where migrants are trying to smash down fences. One young Greek man told me that central Athens is now a no-go zone – FOR GREEKS! The situation is menacing. I invite you to holiday on the island of Lesbos if you dare.

      The difference between us is that I am thinking about all the people in these far away countries, not just those who manage to escape. I care about all the people in Europe, not just the new arrivals, as well. Soon I will be attacked by my own government, for daring to speak the truth. Where will I run away to, please tell me? Our prisons are becoming very dangerous places for the critics of Islam. We must stand and fight tyranny and injustice. If I have to die in the cause of truth, so be it. I will not run away.

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  4. I won’t address everything you raise here as I think I will just circle back on myself. I can see we’re unlikely to move closer to agreement with one another either, so I will just clarify the few points of (potential) misunderstanding.

    I have no desire to see a cap imposed at the moment because there is no need to even discuss one. That is not to say I would favour one if (and it is a big if) the numbers rose considerably. My point was there is no need to even discuss it as the argument you offered was based on numbers that are simply not borne out in reality. My main concern is the needs of those fleeing persecution. I am all the more concerned by this if we have instigated wars in the country being fled, contributing to the crisis. So, to be clear, no I have no desire to see a cap imposed on those seeking asylum.

    I am surprised you think my view that those fleeing persecution have no duty to remain is moral posturing. I am simply surprised that you think it is credible to suggest those being imprisoned, tortured or put to death should remain to improve their country. What precisely are you hoping a bloke who has been killed is going to do? How is a tortured dissident locked in prison and disallowed any outside contact going to improve the lot of his compatriots? It is not a credible answer. Dead people and imprisoned activists don’t affect dictatorial regimes (which is precisely why they continue killing and imprisoning those who dare criticise). Though there is obviously a moral question surrounding that position, I was genuinely surprised this was your solution.

    I think you know full well I wasn’t suggesting the family of people who leave are mere “belongings”. The comment is facetious and beneath you. The point you miss is that folk neither have the time to return home and collect anything nor, if they did, would it be wise for the authorities immediately go to your place of work and your home to get you. Many of my dear friends who have escaped have the heartache of having left their families home because to have gone to get them would have been to face the immediate consequence of what they were trying to escape.

    Your presumption that family members remain in danger is not always true. If a man converts to Christianity under a totalitarian Muslim regime, his family may not follow suit and may not face the same recrimination as him. Likewise, if they publish what is verboten or they engage politically in a way that is disallowed, their family does not necessarily come under the line of fire. Other times, given the direct approach to homes and places of work, families are imprisoned themselves and there is no means of “making them safe”. There are a whole host of reasons why it is not possible for people to bring their families with them and I have witnessed the heartache of many of have been unable to do so.

    Anyway, I don’t sense a coming closer together on this issue so we may perhaps be best to leave it there.

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    1. The point is if there is no escape exit people will get smart. They will go underground. Some will die, others will take a risk and survive. Some will die but their voices will continue being heard after they died, they will become martyrs. Tragic, awful, but until people resist tyranny, tyranny will continue, and may grow stronger. If people are fleeing for reasons they cannot change, such as their race is being persecuted, then that is another matter. Religious practice can go underground however.

      Many of the people genuinely fleeing persecution are finding that the tyranny is coming with them. Christians were thrown in the sea and drowned by Muslims on a boat. Bullying and intimidation goes on in migrant camps, rapes as well. 130 people were murdered in Paris, one of the murderers had a Syrian passport. What was their message? Convert or die. A man was beaten in Bradford for converting to Christianity, by a gang in the street outside his home. At least pastor McConnell sees the danger from this religion. Will you go and be a missionary in Bradford and persuade them they are wrong in their beliefs? Any woman is in danger in Iraq and Syria, especially Christians. Even if they try and convert under duress. Nobody should be leaving their womenfolk behind in that country today.

      The asylum system is broken and needs fixing. Not in the small trivial details you mention in your article, but in a fundamental way. If you want to end the debate before we have addressed the questions properly, then fair enough. It is your blog.

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      1. Sir, I live in Oldham and my church is situated in an area that is 90% Pakistani Muslim with the remaining 10% predominantly coming from Bangladesh. We had race riots in 2001, just like Bradford, over the same issues as in Bradford. We have a large Muslim population here. I am well acquainted with the local Muslim population. You can see some of the things we as a church are doing with them at our website and I am involved in several other initiatives as well. I am friends with a number of imams locally and they are all under no illusion as to what my views on Islam are and I speak to them often and regularly about Christ and the gospel message in the clearest possible terms. So please don’t patronise me with talk of being “a missionary in Bradford”. We are well engaged in Muslim outreach in Oldham and see no contradiction with sharing the gospel message with Muslims, being clear in our view of their religious beliefs, whilst maintaining that we can and will remain friends with them.

        Finding Pastor McConnell’s comments missionally insensitive and unhelpful does not mean that we kowtow to Islamic belief. It is indeed possible to denounce the belief without rejecting the people who hold it. It is possible to be friends with those whom we deeply disagree. We find that a more productive approach to evangelism and community relations – being clear in what we believe and why whilst actually wanting to be friends with those who disagree – rather than denouncing all Muslims, as Pastor McConnell did, as those who are not to be trusted!

        None of these things really has a bearing on the asylum system. Most of them relate to the views of a handful of Muslims who, in many cases, are British citizens and never came to this country as asylum seekers. So the point is redundant to the conversation anyway.

        Why would you be OK with granting asylum to those fleeing racial persecution but not to those fleeing religious persecution? What difference does the reason make? Would you not want asylum if you were being pursued for your life, irrespective whether the death threat was about race, religion or anything else? Unless your view is that the person can change their religion to avoid persecution. If that is your position (but I make no presumption that it is) that would, unfortunately, misunderstand the very nature of belief.

        I simply don’t see your case borne out in the data. As I say, we don’t seem to be getting any closer to one another in this discussion. As such, it may be time to begin drawing it to a close.

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  5. Many apologies for jumping to that conclusion about your situation. As such you do indeed deserve respect for taking the stand you do. I’m afraid I assumed you were in Northern Ireland for some reason, that was silly of me.

    Please understand also that I have known many Muslims, I understand they are human beings with varying opinions. I am not hostile towards them as people. I am not either in 100% agreement with the things Pastor McConnell said in his sermon. However I do believe that sometimes it is only by people taking controversial stands that a debate about important issues regarding people’s faiths are forced into the public arena. Salman Rushdie, the Hebdo cartoons we can disagree with their methods, but by their bravery they have revealed just how intolerant the followers of Islam can be, even in the present day. For similar reasons I speak out against Islam, it is not hate that motivates me. I also speak out to highlight the growing intolerance of our own government. I believe this growing government intolerance is a direct consequence of the growth of Islam. I oppose both trends.

    The reason these points came into my arguments about asylum is because it is principally Islam that I am concerned about. If it were not for Islam becoming an increasing presence in Europe, I would not probably have much of a problem with any of these asylum applications at all. Numbers really matter, very large numbers of Muslims are in Europe already. I’m guessing you would not want a ban on any asylum applications from Muslims, but I do. In fact I want a ban on all Muslim immigration. If they were prepared to renounce their faith, that might be a different matter.

    My point about (possibly) making a distinction between racial and religious persecution is that one can hide one’s religion, but not our race. Catholics created special secret chapels in this country in days gone by for example and so on, as I’m sure you are aware. This was an example of what I meant by getting smart in the face of tyranny. If they stay put in a country they are more likely to be able to overcome that tyranny in the future. Resistance does not always have to come in the form of brazen opposition leading to torture and death.

    “Unless your view is that the person can change their religion to avoid persecution.” Not at all I was suggesting they could (not should, could) pretend to change their religion to avoid persecution, not actually change their beliefs. Of course I might want asylum in those circumstances, my arguments are absolutely not about what any individual wants, but about the greater good in the long run.

    Anyway I think I have probably exhausted my arguments now. Apologies again if my tone was impolite at any point.

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  6. As you say we seem to not be meeting minds on this debate, but you could at least acknowledge that I was right about the fact that most failed asylum seekers are not being deported. You glossed over this:

    “David Cameron under fire after Government figures revealed that 175,000 asylum seekers are awaiting deportation from the UK”

    The size of a small city in the UK. There will be more now. Your 31,000 figure is just in progress applications, I verified that. The whole point is we have this huge backlog of cases now because governments have routinely not been deporting failed asylum seekers, that was my whole point that you did not acknowledge. The system is broken.

    Also you may have overlooked this from the BBC article:

    “There were more than 25,000 asylum applications in the UK in the 12 months up to March. Most applications are typically rejected and in 2014, more than 60% of initial decisions on asylum applications were refusals. But in the same year, only 6,788 asylum seekers and their dependents were removed or departed voluntarily from the UK. ”

    Again, further confirming what I was saying, and that 6,788 figure includes those who go back for other reasons. What I really was talking about is how many were forcibly deported, out of that number. Apparently only 62% of those are forcible deportations. That leaves only 4200 forcibly deported in one year, with a backlog of 175,000 and more coming in. Very likely a lot more now, since the 2015 wave started.

    You also never responded to my point about first safe country. That would invalidate every single application in this country if it were applied.

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  7. I don’t acknowledge it because I don’t accept you are right for the following reasons:

    ““David Cameron under fire after Government figures revealed that 175,000 asylum seekers are awaiting deportation from the UK”

    I would refer you here (https://fullfact.org/immigration/factcheck-failed-asylum-seeker-headlines/). It is apparent that those figures are referring primarily to those who have had standard migrant visas rejected and do not relate to asylum seekers. This report (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmpubacc/584/584.pdf) makes that point quite clearly. Thus that figure does not helpfully tell us how many asylum seekers have failed to be deported – it tells us only the number of people who have had visa rejected (that includes students, those on work visas, economic migrants, etc). It does not meaningfully tell us anything about asylum seekers.

    “There were more than 25,000 asylum applications in the UK in the 12 months up to March. Most applications are typically rejected and in 2014, more than 60% of initial decisions on asylum applications were refusals. But in the same year, only 6,788 asylum seekers and their dependents were removed or departed voluntarily from the UK.”

    This is hardly surprising as we have an appeals system. Just because an initial application is rejected does not mean that a person must therefore be deported immediately. Most people appeal the initial decision and are often left waiting 5, 6 or more years before even hearing a decision. Just work through the figures sensibly. If 60% of 25000 applications are rejected, that means 40% are granted. This leaves 15,000 who have failed to receive a positive decision. Of the 15,000, it appears just under half are deported (c. 7000). It is perfectly conceivable, therefore, that the remaining 8,000 are going through the appeals process which, in my experience, can take years. Even with the very worst reading of those figures, half of rejected cases are deported. The other half, I would venture, are going through a very lengthy and arduous appeals process.

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