France is right to ensure the basic needs of people seeking safety

Last updated January 16, 2015Press release

Today the UK tabloids reacted with horror at a humanitarian response, as France opens a new refugee day centre in Calais for destitute migrants.

Here are the basic facts that explain why the tabloids are wrong, and misleading you:

1. Allowing people their basic human needs is not akin to being on holiday

Ensuring people have basic necessities such as food and toilets, plus access to medical care and facilities to wash themselves and their clothes, is a humane response to people in a desperate situation. Many of these people are fleeing war torn countries and brutal regimes such as Syria, Eritrea and Sudan. This isn’t a holiday camp and journalists should not wish to be in their situation. Suggesting that these migrants are enjoying some kind of holiday environment is misleading and irresponsible.

2. The UK is no more generous than France to people claiming asylum

People seeking asylum and irregular migrants in the UK can’t claim mainstream benefits or get council housing, and they don’t have the right to work. Instead they are forced to live on asylum support which is as little as £36 a week, barely half of income support. This amount has not increased since 2011 and is no more generous than the French equivalent. Many asylum seekers in the UK don’t receive any support at all, even when they’re entitled to it, and are homeless and destitute.

3. The UK is not ‘flooded’ with people seeking asylum

In 2013 France received 60,200 asylum applications in comparison with the UK’s 23,000. That’s 36,693 more and almost three times as many. Britain is home to less than 1% of the world’s refugees and takes proportionately below the EU average.

Moreover, there are no refugee visas available for people fleeing persecution. The fact that people are forced to travel clandestinely is recognised within the Refugee Convention and British Law.

Dave Garratt, Refugee Action Chief Executive, responds to the articles:

“It’s disheartening to see the same tired clichés being dragged out by tabloid journalists who seem intent on inciting fear, hatred and panic among the UK’s population. It’s also astonishing that they would be so hostile to allowing people their dignity and basic needs, many of whom will have suffered horrific experiences in their home countries and on their journeys to Europe.

Rather than demonise people desperate to find a route to safety, we should be calling on our government to find ways of offering more safe and legal channels to the UK for refugees, such as through the UNHCR resettlement programme.”

Media enquiries

Please contact Refugee Action’s media team.

Get involved

Take action through our Journey to Safety campaign and bring a homeless refugee to safety.