Having considered the case study and the issues facing the household I am aware that each individual situation is of equal importance with regard to need, however I have decided to focus my attention on Isaac and the many problems he may face as an Asylum Seeker. I have chosen to discus this matter as I have a strong personal as well as professional interest in diversity and believe that everyone has a right to equality no matter what their race, religion or culture.
Living within a multi-cultural society can be very enriching and rewarding and it is my belief that all individuals have a right to safety, a decent standard of living and self-determination. The issues of asylum are complex and many asylum seekers will have gone through traumatic experiences prior to leaving their country of origin. The period awaiting a decision, or undergoing the appeal procedures may be an extremely gruelling and uncertain time for an asylum seeker.
Although the Race Relations Act 1976 makes direct and indirect discrimination illegal, asylum seekers and refugees still face discrimination in housing, education and other areas (Thompson, 2001). The majority usually have no right to work and are dependent on the state for access to housing, health care, food and other necessities. This can be quite distressing for many asylum seekers who have come from a high paid career and hold vocational qualifications but are restricted in using them by government policy (racial equality council, 2008).
These are just a few of the many problems that asylum seekers may experience and I have chosen this area as I would like to enhance my understanding of the issues facing asylum seekers and my role as a Social Worker in promoting their overall welfare. As a child I was taught to respect people and treat everyone as an equal, although my father has often expressed racist views towards refugees and asylum seekers giving me mixed messages.
However during my training and career as a Nursery Nurse in both England and Dubai I have gained a deeper knowledge, understanding and appreciation of diversity and humanitarianism. Having looked at the research with regard to asylum seekers and refugees and contact made with organisations including Racial Equality Council, START, Refugees First and Open Doors I am now clearer about the issues encompassing them. The following is a definition from the United Nations 1951 convention which describes who asylum seekers and refugees are:
“A person having a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reason of religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country” An asylum seeker is someone who has made a formal application for asylum and is waiting for a decision on his or her claim (Refugee Action, 2002).
Like most countries, the UK has signed the 1951 Geneva Convention for Refugees, which means that it must consider and process the claims of those who come here having fled persecution in their home country. The convention states that these people have the right to international protection (Refugee Action, 2002). Depending on an individual’s experience and knowledge one has different views on asylum seekers and whether they should be given equal rights to enter our country. Sometimes asylum seekers may be frowned upon and given little respect often experiencing racial abuse.
Having watched a recent programme titled “Keep them out” it is evident that many people within the UK are apposed to asylum seekers. The documentary highlights people protesting with racist remarks against asylum seekers coming into the country. Asylum seekers were seen as criminals and a nuisance to society. Concerns were expressed about house prices dropping due to asylum seekers accommodation being built in their area. I was incensed by the attitudes which I believe to be founded on ignorance.
Human nature is such that individuals sometimes loose sight of the needs of others and may only see an issue from their own perspective. The media plays a damaging part in perhaps highlighting all the negatives. It is important that people are educated on the matter of asylum in order to overcome negative prejudice. The following quote highlights the reality facing asylum seekers with regard to their status within the UK. “The picture of support to refugee communities is varied and uncertain.
The package of support provided by the National Asylum Support Services includes a weekly allowance, which is valued below the poverty line at 70 per cent income support equivalent. Under the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act, all people subject to immigration controls are denied council housing and a range of non-contributory benefits. These benefits comprise the core means-tested benefits for last resort as well as family and disability benefits. This shutting of the gate to a whole range of benefits, along with an income below the poverty line, inevitably leaves some families destitute.
” (Hayes and Humphries, 2004) As a person who values diversity and believes in equality I feel very strongly about giving everybody the same opportunities to live a happy and secure life. This includes allowing asylum seekers the chance to be free from torture, inhumane or degrading treatment. (Human Rights Act, 1998) It is my belief that all human beings deserve respect and dignity and should be treated will equal concern, however looking at the media it is evident that the UK is struggling to sustain the support required for asylum seekers, which is becoming a growing problem within the UK today.
The Human Rights Act 1998 applies to anyone living within the UK’s borders regardless of circumstances or nationality, this includes asylum seekers and thus prevents the UK government from deporting anyone to a country where they may face torture. When entering the UK asylum seekers must apply for asylum at the port of entry to enable them to receive support from National Asylum Support Services (NASS). The NASS is part of the Home Office who provide support, accommodation and financial help for asylum seekers while their claim is being considered.
Providing you apply for asylum as soon as you enter the country, any person seeking asylum within the UK is entitled to housing, support, money, health and education. Until an asylum seeker receives refugee status they are often in a state of limbo and invariably their equal rights are denied. There is an argument in terms of balancing the needs of UK citizens and those of asylum seekers and who should be a priority. The resources are increasingly stretched and the government are looking to address this by restricting the numbers of asylum seekers that are coming into the country (BBC, 2006)
The UK has one of the highest levels of homelessness with more that 4 people per 1,000 estimated to be homeless. This is a major issue within the UK and whilst I believe that everyone deserves the right to equality and respect with regard to housing, employment, health and education, as a Social Work student I am aware of a need to prioritize resources. As a Social Work student the four basic values that influence my practice, as defined by Banks (2001) are: Respect for and promotion of individuals’, rights to self determination, promotion of welfare or well-being, Equality and Distributive Justice.
Egan (2002 p. 45) describes values as ‘drivers of behaviour’ meaning that they are not just ideals but provide us with a set of practical criteria that influence our decision-making. Dominelli (2002) and Diwvedi (2002) underline the need to recognise the ways in which helpers are different from their clients and the importance of being sensitive to these differences. “Such lists of principles are often underpinned by one basic or ultimate principle formulated as ‘respect for persons’ which, it has been argued, is the foundation of Social Work ethics and, indeed, any system or moral thinking” (Plant, 1970)