We are writing on behalf of all the Worcestershire Welcomes groups and asylum seekers support groups in the county. We are grateful to county, city and district councils for the welcome they have extended so far to refugees in our midst. We acknowledge and value the unstinting support of the resettlement team employed by Worcestershire County Council.
However, we have become deeply concerned by the tone of the rhetoric being used, especially at a national level, by some politicians and some media who refer to ‘Illegal Asylum Seekers’. We challenge the use of ‘Illegal’ in this context. This is of course not the only terminology misused in this way, but is, we believe, the one that underpins most of the rest.
We ask our County, City, Borough, and District Councils to speak out against the use of such dangerous and inflammatory language.
Since the arrival of the first Syrian refugees in 2016, and subsequently people from Afghanistan and Ukraine, all our voluntary community groups have offered a welcome to those seeking refuge in our county. We have also been encouraged on the occasions when our local MPs have helped and supported in some individual cases. Additionally there are many other sympathetic citizens who help, practically and morally. These actions show our society to be compassionate and caring, fulfilling our legal and moral obligations.
All our Welcome groups offer support to people of all ages – men, women and children – who have fled their homeland and seek sanctuary in a safe place. The causes of their flight include war, torture and persecution in their home countries, and they have almost always suffered immense personal trauma to get here. These people may have arrived through UK Government sponsored schemes, or they may have made their way here in desperation by other routes. In either case, we offer unconditional support without discrimination.
If the refugees did not arrive by one of the few officially sanctioned routes, they need to apply for asylum. Asylum is another word for sanctuary, so ‘asylum seeker’ is a perfectly correct and appropriate term for all people coming to our country seeking safety.
This is embedded in both international legislation and in our own law. They are not ‘illegal’ unless, and until, their case has been properly investigated and is then refused. Only if they do not leave when requested would their presence here become illegal. To use the term ‘Illegal Asylum Seeker’ is factually inaccurate.
This term, and other language suggesting that we are being ‘invaded’ or ‘overwhelmed’ by young men who are ‘economic migrants’ rather than by people seeking safety, is dangerously inflammatory. Such language increases violent prejudice and danger towards those already officially resident here, as well as towards those whose cases will be agreed once fully and properly considered.
This is why we seek your support to ensure that the narrative offered is accurate and respectful of the human rights of people who have already suffered so much.
Furthermore, in view of the widespread practical compassion for these people shown by our County, we request a meeting with the leader of Worcestershire County Council to discuss applying for the ‘Council of Sanctuary UK Award’ – see City of Sanctuary UK. By this means we hope to build solidarity and respond to hostility.
We look forward to your response.
Ruth Forecast for Worcestershire Welcomes Refugees & Malvern Welcomes
Johannah Dyer for Bromsgrove and District Asylum Seekers Support
Yvonne Rendell for Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees
Margaret Rowley for Droitwich Welcomes Refugees
Julie Tucker for Evesham Vale Welcomes Refugees
Brian Darwood for Worcester City Welcomes Refugees
Janice Bell for Wyre Forest Refugee Support Group
Sarah Lange for Wyre Forest Asylum Seekers Support Group