Asylum: Let’s look at the numbers

August 4, 2015 3:30 PM
By Elwyn Watkins in Liberal Democrat Voice

I thought that I would do a little bit of number crunching on the asylum seeker figures for 2014.

Firstly, let's be clear about the overall numbers. In 2014 just under 25 thousand people claimed asylum in the UK. In context this represents about 4% of people coming to our country. But actually the real number that should be used is the number of people who are granted asylum. Of the nearly 25,000 that claimed asylum in 2014 only 7,270 were granted asylum. Hence just over 1% of the immigrants to the UK in 2014 were people that we have granted asylum to.

Secondly, it is really interesting when you look at who gets asylum and who does not. I am not surprised that people from Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh want to come to the UK. They suffer corrupt governments and often lack opportunities to progress. Many will have friends and family in the UK. However, if they apply for asylum they are very unlikely to succeed. For example, 93% of asylum applications from Bangladesh fail. That looks pretty tough until you look at the figures for India. In 2014 of the 689 asylum applications from India only 2 (yes two) were accepted. Hence the idea that you can tell any old story and get in is simply not true. The vast majority of claimants from Afghanistan and Iraq are turned down.

So where do the successful asylum seekers come from? The big numbers that stand out are Syria (2,081), Eritrea (3,238) and Somalia (331). They each tell a different story

Let's take Somalia first. From 2001 the numbers of asylum seekers have reduced by 95% (6,419 to 331). I'm not sure that I would want to live there but clearly now that some sort of normality have arrived there has been a vast reduction in people wanting to emigrate.

Syria shows the opposite trend. Even though it was a pretty horrible dictatorship, very few Syrians in 2001 wanted to claim asylum in the UK. 109 applied and 22 were successful. Not surprisingly as the civil war ramped up, so did the numbers. Just over 2,000 claimed asylum in 2014 and where a decision was made 85% were successful. To put some perspective on this number it equates to less than one in a thousand of those affected by the conflict.

Eritrea was the final country that I looked at. The numbers have been high for the last 10 years and virtually everyone (86%) gets granted asylum. Until the international community does something about the despotic regime I dare say this will continue.

To sum up, successful asylum seekers make up around 1% of the immigrants to the UK. Even if you come from a pretty dreadful country you are unlikely to be successful. And there is a clear link between civil war, conflict and people wanting to find safety. Even then, only if you come from somewhere where death and destruction are a daily feature are you likely to find sanctuary.

* Elwyn Watkins is an ex Parliamentary candidate and councillor from Rochdale/Oldham