Why People Apply for Asylum in the UK

Many people who are forced to flee are in the hands of the people who arrange their escape. Over two thirds of people interviewed for a Refugee Council research study said that they did not choose to come to the UK. Most only discovered where they were going after leaving their country of origin.

The primary objective for all those interviewed for the 2010 report was reaching a place of safety. Around three quarters had no knowledge of welfare benefits and support before coming to the UK – most had no expectation they would be given financial support. 90% were working in their country of origin and very few were aware they would not be allowed to work when they arrived in the UK.

More recently the UK fact checking charity Full Fact said that ‘There isn’t much direct evidence that the UK is disproportionately favoured by asylum seekers.’ (click here for website)

Speaking on the BBC Radio Ulster documentary, ‘Nowhere to Go’, broadcast in 2014, Jo Marley, Director of Bryson Intercultural, said that people who turned up at the Bryson One Stop Service for Asylum Seekers in Belfast mostly thought that they were in London, Dublin or Europe when they first arrived and had never thought of such a thing as a welfare state.

Some people may try to join family already here or want to come to an English-speaking country because of their country’s former colonial history.

The only thing in my mind was to be safe. I didn’t make any choice to leave my country. (Democratic Republic of Congo, male, 35-44)

I didn’t want to come to the UK. I was working. I had a nice house in Zimbabwe and my own business. I was involved with the church. I never had a plan to leave. (Zimbabwe, female, 35-44)

Interviewees talking about their lack of choice in leaving their home country in Chance or Choice? Understanding Why Asylum Seekers come to the UK 

Additional reading: Home Office Research Study 243 Understanding the decision-making of asylum seekers