HR & Employment Services
South West Councils
Asylum Seekers and Refugees
What the difference between an Asylum Seeker and a Refugee?
A refugee is someone who has proved that they have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country and has been granted permission to stay in the UK as a refugee. An asylum seeker is someone who, having applied for refugee status, is awaiting a decision on their claim.
The regional context
The South West has just over 1000 asylum seekers, speaking around 100 different languages, who have been dispersed around the region. Most asylum seekers are located in Bristol, Plymouth, Swindon and Gloucester. There are an unknown number of refugees of many varied nationalities, who are able to chose where they live. At the end of March 2017, 450 Syrian refugees were resettled under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme in the South West, often to areas with no existing refugee populations. (See below for more information).
Syrian refugee resettlement
David Cameron announced in September 2015 that the Syrian Vulnerable Resettlement Scheme would be expanded to resettle 20,000 in the UK by 2020. In the South West, 26 local authorities have helped resettle over 450 Syrian refugees (as of end March 2017). Syrian refugee families are learning English and being supported to integrate into their local communities, many of whom have been very welcoming in the region.
What are the issues?
Both Asylum Seekers and Refugees can face difficulties when accessing public services, including education and health. Asylum seekers are forbidden to work, and are given support equivalent to about £5 a day. If they need accommodation, they are dispersed around the UK on a 'no choice' basis. If someone's asylum application is refused then the government support and accommodation is withdrawn. If approved someone who has claimed asylum is given refugee status for five years or humanitarian protection and is able to work.
For those who have fled persecution and often torture, mental health problems arise, such as: post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, and difficulties concentrating and learning. Refugees often have complex, compounding trauma, anxiety, depression, bereavement, loss of culture and uncertainty about the future.
The South West Asylum Forum
The South West Asylum Forum meets quarterly, bringing together regional stakeholders from local authorities, the Home Office, accommodation providers, police, voluntary & community organisations and others to discuss asylum and refugee issues.