Refugee Council research, published in 2010, dispelled a number of myths. Chance or Choice? Understanding Why Asylum Seekers Come to the UK, described how, of the people they interviewed
• Over two thirds did not choose to come to the UK.
• Most only discovered they were going to the UK after leaving their country of origin.
• The primary objective for all those interviewed 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.
Speaking on the BBC Radio Ulster documentary, ‘Nowhere to Go’, broadcast on 16 February 2014, Jo Marley, Director of Bryson Intercultural, said that people who turn up at the Bryson One Stop Service for Asylum Seekers in Belfast mostly think that they are in London, Dublin or Europe when they first arrive, and have never thought of such a thing as a welfare state.
I am not Muslim, I am a Sabian Mandaean. You either have to leave Iraq or change your religion. I went with my parents to stay with a Christian friend but this was not safe. While we were staying with our friend, many Christians were killed. My parents considered this to be a very dangerous situation and began planning for me to leave. (Iraq, male, 25-34)
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
Read some stories about why people flee their home countries and seek refuge in the UK on the Red Cross web site.