When Asylum Seekers Outstay Their Welcome

Evening Telegraph (UK), This Is Derbyshire, Jul. 2

In July, the Evening Telegraph reported that the number of asylum seekers in the city had dropped to 1,015 compared with 1,550 the previous year.

Meanwhile, the dispersal of asylum seekers to Derby is still suspended.

But, as reporter Joanna Hill discovered, failed asylum seekers often stay put and become illegal immigrants. Derby is now to more than 1,000 illegal immigrants.

In a busy street on the edge of the inner city, a group of men gather in a small room in a detached house that once would have been a comfortable abode for some well-to-do gentleman. Now it is a community centre.

The men have to climb stairs to the room and there they sip coffee or tea from styrofoam cups and talk rapidly and nervously while a handful of interpreters struggle to understand them.

There is lots of paperwork, official forms and legal decisions.

This is one of the regular help sessions for Derby’s asylum seekers and refugees.

The people here help those who are waiting for a decision on their asylum claim and those who have been given refugee status but are finding it difficult to make a living.

But there is also a sub-group of people they are trying to help—the “overstayers”.

Iranian Gabbar Moradi (29), of Meynall Street, Derby, is about to join that sub-group.

He holds a thick document in his hand. He doesn’t understand it—but he senses that it is not good news.

It is, in fact, the result of his immigration appeal tribunal and it is bad news. In bold capitals, it says: “This application by the appellant is refused”.

Interpreters at the centre will explain to Mr Moradi that the tribunal decided that they did not believe his story that he was detained for 20 days by Iranian security forces on suspicion of being a KDP (Democratic Party of Iran) spy and was then released on condition that he worked as a spy for the Iranian Intelligence Service.

This kind of coercion spurred Mr Moradi to leave the country, or so he claims.

But the people making the decision on his application judged his explanation to be “implausible”.

It is the end of the road for Mr Moradi’s asylum application.

Within 14 days he will lose his accommodation and financial support. Like most asylum seekers, he was looked after by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS), which provides housing and other support. He also had a subsistence payment of ?37.77 per week.

So what will happen to him?

The Office says that the “Immigration Service seeks to remove people as safely and as humanely as possible” and encourages voluntary return, though will “where necessary” force people to go . There is a voluntary assisted returns programme which provides advice and pays for them to go , as well as help when they get there.

But, according to the Derby Voluntary Sector Refugee Forum, which runs these advice sessions for refugees and asylum seekers, the city is to more than 1,000 people who are not removed and become overstayers.

They should go back but the forum says that the Immigration Service fails to remove people who do not have the means to return on their own. Overstayers thus become illegal immigrants, a group which also includes those people who have never claimed asylum and are never detected.

The forum’s chairman, David Callow, says that he is not aware of many people being sent back to their countries. In his opinion, the Immigration Service ignores many overstayers and will only deport people occasionally to set an example.

He believes that, because many of the failed asylum seekers come from countries such as Iran, Iraq and Zimbabwe, which are not on a list of 25 countries the UK considers to be safe, the Immigration Service turns a blind eye.

“I see many people in this situation, it’s a timebomb waiting to go off,” he says. “They’ve been turned down, so they’re chucked out of their housing, but they’ve nowhere to go.

“They haven’t got any means to get back to their own country and most, in my experience, are not helped.”

Iraqi Kurd Abas Solahy (47), of Sinfin, helps out at the community centre, the name of which the forum does not want to disclose because they fear recriminations because of “negative” attitudes towards immigrants.

“It’s an awful situation,” he said. “And these men are just left with nothing.

“They should be given permission to work by the authorities.”

Derby City Council deputy leader Philip Hickson, who is in charge of asylum seeker policy in the city, estimates that there are about 1,500 illegal immigrants in the city, a proportion of whom will be overstayers.

He says that the information comes from landlords informing him of over-occupation, which means that failed asylum-seekers are staying with friends, plus people who overstay in NASS accommodation.

The Office has admitted that removing failed asylum seekers does present “considerable problems” but does not specify what those problems are.

And it says that, in 2003, a “record” 17,040 asylum seekers were removed—an increase of 23 per cent compared with the previous year—but does not say what proportion of the total this is.

It is also not clear what the procedure is for removing someone. But a Office spokeswoman said that they launch regular operations to get rid of illegal immigrants.

In addition, it is difficult to gauge if it is an inefficient Immigration Service or the failed asylum seekers deliberately disappearing.

In the meantime, Mr Callow and his volunteers have to work with these failed asylum seekers who, he says, need to be supported to leave the country.

He thinks that the numbers are so high now because more and more people are being turned down.

He estimates that 90 per cent of claims are dismissed.

“We’re dealing with the results of appeals all the time where the claims are simply not believed,” he says.

“I have one client from Zimbabwe whose daughter was killed and he also has 50 signatures of support from his church in Derby, but he’s been turned down.

“They simply do not believe him.”

And what of the consequences of illegal immigrants?

“They might turn to illegal jobs or drugs,” said Mr Callow. “And that can’t be good for society.”

These problems were illustrated in the case of the 20 illegal Chinese cockle-pickers who drowned on February 5 when they were caught on mudflats by a rising tide at Morecambe Bay.

The forum wants there to be a transparent system so that people who are turned down are dealt with straightaway instead of being allowed to stay.

“There are a lot of overstayers in Derby,” said Mr Callow. “But we feel that the system should be transparent. If someone is turned down, instead of nothing happening, they should be taken to a hostel and plans should be made for them to return. The problem we have is that people are being driven underground.”

Mr Hickson agreed: “As far as Derby’s concerned, we would hope that this is a diminishing problem because there are fewer asylum seekers now.

“But there’s always a danger, if we have people who are living in a country with no legal ways of supporting themselves. Generally, they go in one of two directions, either resorting to criminal activities or being exploited by others.”

He said that he was not aware of unscrupulous employers in the Derbyshire area.

So is the Office going to do anything about the problem?

Last month, Secretary David Blunkett unveiled changes to the Asylum and Immigration Bill to deal with people who have been turned down for asylum but who cannot immediately return to their country because it is deemed too dangerous for them to do so.

It means that failed asylum seekers will have to do community work and will then qualify for food and s.

The Secretary also plans to restrict access to council housing to s people returning to London from the “dispersal” areas they were sent to.

One proposal likely to prove controversial is the effort to restrict asylum seekers to specific areas of the country by controlling access to council housing.

Mr Blunkett was also pleased to announce that asylum claims had fallen by a fifth to 10,585 in the first three months of the year.

University College London’s migration research unit carried out research to find out where these asylum seekers had gone and concluded that the fall had come from a massive reduction in arrival from 11 key countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.

But the researchers also expressed concerns that it was impossible to say whether or not would-be asylum seekers were entering illegally in large numbers because there were “neither data sources nor estimates of the number of people living illegally in the UK”.

The time it takes to make a decision has also been been speeded up.

But all this might be cold comfort for the people of Derby and other cities in the UK who have illegal immigrants in their streets and sleeping on floors.

In the meantime, no-one knows what has happened to the overstayer, Mr Moradi. “He’s probably still around,” said Mr Callow.

Asylum seekers, refugees and overstayers

Immigrant

An all-encompassing term usually taken to mean someone who leaves their native land and goes to another country as a permanent resident.

Illegal immigrant

Although a widely-used term, it is not defined anywhere in UK law and is not used as a category by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

The closest official term is “illegal entrant” which mainly covers people allowed into the UK after deceiving an immigration officer.

The 1951 United Nations Convention states that countries should not impose penalties on individuals coming from a place where their life or freedom is threatened just because they gained entry illegally.

Asylum seeker

Often confused with illegal immigrant or refugee. Generally taken to mean someone who has fled persecution and applied for protection in another country, but use of the term varies around the world.

In UK law, it is defined as someone who has made a formal claim for asylum within the UK and whose claim is being processed.

Deportation order

Mainly issued when an asylum claim and subsequent appeal have been rejected.

Anyone subject to such an order is required to leave the UK, and can be detained until they are removed.

It also prohibits them from re-entering the country for as long as it is in force and invalidates any leave to enter or remain in the UK granted before the order is made or while it is in force.

A deportation order can also be made when the Secretary “deems the person’s deportation to be conducive to the public good”, or where a court has recommended it.

Economic migrant

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the term migrant refers to someone who makes a conscious, voluntary choice to leave their country of origin.

If and when they want to return, they can do so with no obstruction (or worse) from the government of the country to which they are returning.

An economic migrant is someone who leaves their country to seek a more prosperous way of life.

Overstayer

A person who stays in the UK for longer than the period of time they have been granted.

If caught, they can be served with a deportation order.

Refugee

In the UK, the term is used to describe someone who has successfully applied for asylum and been granted indefinite leave to remain.

Internationally, the term has huge significance as it forms the benchmark of the 1951 Convention, in which Article One defines a refugee as: “A person who is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/ herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.”

Safe third country rule

Asylum claims may be refused if the applicant can be returned to a safe “third country”.

For example, a country through which an applicant passed en route to the UK. The third country would then consider the merits of the applicant’s claim.

Separately to the third country list, there are 25 countries the UK considers to be generally safe.

If nationals from these countries apply for asylum and are refused, they are only allowed to appeal against the decision once they have left the UK.

Comments from Readers

From: Casey Crews

I wonder if the guy from Zimbabwe that got turned down for asylum is white? I would think there is no one in the world more deserving of asylum than a white person from Zimbabwe.

From: Dryden

This is one of the roots of our problem: once they have failed to obtain legal status, they stay anyway. Amnesty International, worried that large numbers of obvious economic migrants will end support for the vastly smaller numbers of genuine asylum seekers, attempted to estimate the proportion of bogus asylum seekers. Their estimate was close to 90 percent.

The answer is simple: deport them to their country of origin if they’re economics migrants. Alternatively, deport them to the nearest suitable nation to their (e.g. the Iranians can move to Iraq). Of course, such a decision would require strong leadership committed to the good of Britain . . .

In any case, most asylum seekers don’t reach Britain via air, so almost all have passed through many suitable nations en route to Britain. It’s time to just refuse entry to all such entrants.

From: Drew

What is worrisome to me about all of these “asylum seekers” is that there seems to be no end in sight. The United Nations says that most of the population growth is going to be in third world countries. And these countries are the most ill-prepared and ill-equipped to deal with population growth. Like a freight train they are coming right at us.

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