Friday, 19 June 2015

The huge increase in asylum seekers

One development, which has fuelled the immigration debate, is the considerable rise in the numbers seeking asylum, particularly during the past decade. Britain signed up to the UN Convention on Asylum 1951 in very different circumstances to those that apply today. It was then seen primarily as a means of providing a welcome to those escaping from countries under communist control. The numbers who applied were very small, virtually all being of European stock who could easily integrate into our society.

The situation today has been completely transformed, since the numbers now seeking asylum are huge, sometimes in excess of 100,000 a year, the vast majority coming from countries outside Europe. Moreover, most asylum seekers’ claims are judged to be unfounded but, because of the lengthy appeals process, and the lack of meaningful enforcement action, most of those refused asylum continue to remain here. Many of the people who are now seeking asylum are from countries which earlier generations of liberals agitated on behalf of, when they were seeking independence from colonial rule.

The most obvious example of this is Zimbabwe, a country that under the white rule of Ian Smith was, by African standards, a model of stability and good government. However, for a period of fifteen years before formal independence, Rhodesia (as it was then known) was subject not only to international sanctions instigated by Britain but, in later years, a Marxist inspired murderous guerrilla campaign led by terrorists such as Robert Mugabe. As a consequence of these pressures Rhodesian society was fatally destabilized, and when Mugabe became president of an internationally recognised Zimbabwe, the joy of liberals was unbounded, as shown in the diary entry of Tony Benn, where he crowed 'Robert Mugabe has won the Rhodesian elections outright. It’s a fantastic victory and I can’t remember anything that has given me so much pleasure for a long time'.

However, based on the experience of other African countries granted independence, it must have been clearly obvious that 'majority rule' in Zimbabwe, for which liberals craved, would inevitably lead to the same chaos, corruption, backwardness and poverty which is the hallmark of most African regimes. So we now witness the unedifying spectacle of liberals, who were once cheerleaders for Mugabe, now demanding that Britain should accept large numbers of native African asylum seekers 'fleeing' his regime and others equally corrupt and incompetent.

Current British asylum policy divides people into two categories, firstly those whose claim is considered to be unfounded and who are branded 'bogus' by the tabloid media and, secondly, those who meet the criteria for granting asylum and who are termed 'genuine'. It should be remembered that virtually all of the tens of thousands of people who claim asylum in Britain each year travel considerable distances to do so, rather than seeking refuge in the nearest safe country. In this context Britain is in a fortunate position as it is unlikely that, in normal circumstances, countries such as France, Holland or Norway would ever give rise to asylum seekers from their own indigenous citizens.

It is, of course, open for Britain to accept asylum seekers from more distant countries, as happened in the Cold War period when those escaping the tyranny of communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were normally granted automatic asylum as a political gesture. However, if the area for which people can be considered for asylum is extended to cover the whole world, then we are likely to face considerable difficulties. This is because of the sheer scale of the numbers that could be involved, since outside Western society, a notable feature of most countries is their poor human rights records. Thus, any person arriving from such countries could credibly advance a plausible case for asylum, because of the nature of the society they wish to leave. So, because of the potential numbers who could theoretically be eligible, it is clearly quite impossible to accept all those who might want to come since, allowing just 1% of the potential total to enter this country would completely overwhelm us. So, on practical grounds the reality is that there has to be a limit to how many can come in, no matter how well founded an asylum claim might be.

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