Thinking differently about asylum

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Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think tank Ekklesia, which says that Immigration Minister Phil Woolas should investigate his own government's bias against asylum seekers rather than attack those who give claimants access to basic legal justice, said today that the stance of the churches and civic groups points to the direction policy should be moving in.

"Too much of the government's agenda is driven by tabloid panic, not enough by attention to real human need," he commented. "The language of 'false' and 'failed' asylum seekers also needs questioning. While criminal activities should be dealt with by the law, it is not the case that all applicants who are refused have 'unfounded claims'. Many are simply not given the kind of justice that they deserve."

Likewise, Ekklesia is calling for a re-assessment of assumptions about 'economic migration'. Barrow added: "If people are forced to move because of extreme poverty, then it is the poverty that needs addressing. Blaming the victim is morally wrong and politically naive. The real migration crisis is in parts of the world that are poorest, and it is the by-product of an inequitable global system that produces dire consequences for all concerned. Trying to lock the door on this reality will not work in the long run."

In his recent interview with the Guardian newspaper Mr Woolas said of an asylum claimant who had to go through six stages of appeal and finally won his case in law: "That person has no right to be in this country".

Simon Barrow commented: "It is utterly astonishing that a senior government minister should dismiss a court decision in this way, blame lawyers and others who give vulnerable people access to justice, and try to say that there is something wrong in appealing against the state's attempts to kick you out of the country. People win appeals because the system has failed them. Many more would do so if it was fair, according to those at the cutting edge."