One of the main problems with commenting on two issues at the same time is that the readers will understandably presume a connection. As Sky News reported the new Fast-Tracking for Asylum Appeals cases, they also bundled this in with criminal cases. The net result: a narrative that pushes people to presume the negative view of Asylum seekers.
When people apply for Asylum they are basically saying: “help me.” This might be a cry for help against oppression and persecution, sometimes even death. One such example might be, if we believe the media coverage, a homosexual person from Chechnya coming to the UK in genuine fear of their life. They might bring their family with them, fearing for their safety, too.
Most decent human beings would hold their hands out and offer help. Asylum is never meant to be a permanent arrangement, and the intention should be for that person to seek to return their country once it is safe to do so. When I was a teacher working in a school in the West Midlands, we often had large influxes of refugees and asylum seekers. They came to my school because we were especially good with languages and had the resources to support them. However, the support they needed was not just educational, it was often emotional.
Imagine trying to teach children who not only recently joined the school, but had also recently fled an oppressive home, and travelled thousands of miles. They can’t go back due to genuine fear of their life. And yet, what treatment do they get? Tarnished with the same brush that bundles Asylum Appeals in with Criminals.
Obviously, it is of great benefit for us to expedite the removal of criminal migrants from the country. Not only are such people a potential danger to the UK, they are a waste of resources and money. That’s an issue in itself and worthy of exploring. It is understandable that a fast-track system to facilitate that could be seen as a positive.
But bundling that issue together with Asylum Appeals makes for an uncomfortable association. When people make Asylum claims that are refused, it doesn’t mean they have broken laws, cheated, lied or have other dishonest intent. It might merely be a result of mistakes in making their genuine claim.
The problem with this kind of reporting about Asylum Appeals is that it stirs suspicion where there might simply be none to be held. Fast-tracking appeals should be seen as a positive step to improve the system and allow for those detained to regain freedom. But applying this Fast-track only to detained claimants makes it appear to the public that the individual appellant must be trying to buck the system, or find a loop hole in some way.
My personal view would be that anything that speeds up legal due process should be a positive step. That does require the assumption that speed does not compromise quality or justice. Expecting an increase in speed should not come with it the assumption that more people will be refused and deported. However, the cynical part of me wonders if this might not be a concern to the powers that be.
So, let’s not assume that Asylum Appeals seekers are criminal masterminds who have been caught, imprisoned and trying to “beat the system.” Yes, some of them will be. Just as some British people are also criminals. But the truth is that the majority of immigrant – economic, refugee or Asylum seekers – have no dishonest intent. They just want to live, even just to survive. Bundling them together in reports with Criminals, I believe, creates an unfair association, and it only serves to exacerbate tensions.