Bristol Student Action for Refugees

Student action for refugees ; supporting refugees everywhere protest star campaign

To find out more about the issues surrounding immigrants & refeugees in bristol please visit

Why should we help refugees and asylum seekers?

It's a question of basic human rights, how would you like to be treated if you had to leave this country because of civil war or because of the actions of a future government?

Who is a refugee?

Under international law the word Refugee has a very precise meaning: someone who is forced to flee their home and country; who escapes to another country and is given refugee status by the government of the new country. For that person to be given refugee status, the government of the new country has to decide whether they merit refugee status.

According to the 1951 United Nations Convention on refugees (article 1a), a refugee is anyone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country." Someone who has fled from his or her home country and is seeking refugee status in another country is called an asylum seeker.

Why do People Flee?

People flee from their homes and become refugees for many different reasons, such as war between countries, civil war, persecution of minority ethnic groups or religious groups, or of members of political organisations. People are also persecuted because they belong to a distinct social group, such as gay men and lesbians. In some countries, women who refuse to conform to the dress code in their country are targeted.

The current situation in Britain

Contrary to popular belief asylum seekers don't receive huge amounts of benefits, in fact under the current system in this country their treatment is pretty appalling. Asylum seekers are not allowed to find paid employment until they have received a positive decision about their asylum claim. This means that most asylum seekers are dependent on the government for accommodation and basic living costs while they wait for a decision from the Home Office, even if they are qualified and/or are willing and able to work (and for once basic living costs means what it says, we're not talking the comparative luxury of a student budget here, the average asylum seeker gets just over £37 a week and they don't get catered accommodation).
So you're trying to work out whether or not you could live on that £37 right? Well you can stop right there because not every body gets it: due to section 55 of the 2002 Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act asylum seekers who don't claim asylum as quickly as possible at port of entry can be denied both the living allowance and accommodation.

This means that new arrivals are often denied automatic access to essential food, shelter and clothing and are being forced into destitution and homelessness.
Whilst this rule does not apply to families with children under the age of 18 it does include pregnant women and teenage children who arrive without parents and who the Home Office believe to be over 18 (remember that if you're government is so corrupt that you have to flee the chances of them giving you a passport or any form of ID are pretty remote).

Some asylum seekers are detained in specified centres or in prisons upon arrival in the UK. Detainees are denied freedom of movement or access to quality legal advice and are often kept for long peroids of time without explanation. Britain's routine use of detention has been condemned by The UNHCR, Amnesty International and the British Medical Association.
Those who are detained generally come from countries the Home Office has not deemed to be dangerous, but it took two years of Mugabe's brutal regime in Zimbabwe for the Home Office to recognise the risk and realise people were fleeing there for a reason.

The decision to detain an individal is made by an Immigration Officer at the air/sea port and is often completely arbitrary. No other European country uses such wide-ranging powers to lock up asylum seekers. Despite the fact that detention costs approximately £15 million per year, the government are creating new detention centres for asylum seekers.

The process of assessing an individual asylum claim can take up to 2 years, a period during which asylum seekers must simply await a decision made by the Home Office (sometimes in detention or whilst destitute).

Once a decision has been made, an asylum seeker is either:

Back to Top