Asylum seekers find most British welcoming

Asylum seekers find most British people polite, welcoming and obsessed with football, according to a survey out today.

And the best things about living in the UK are not only the friendly locals and our national sport, but also British TV, the poll found.

X-Factor and EastEnders along with news bulletins were the top three TV programmes favoured by refugees and asylum seekers.

Half of those polled said either the Queen or Princess Diana was the British person they most admired, with 41% choosing David Beckham.

The nationwide survey questioned 327 refugees and asylum seekers exiled from their homes and families by war and human rights abuses in countries such as Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Afghanistan.

Refugees are those granted the legal right to live in the UK, while asylum seekers are people awaiting permission from the Home Office for leave to remain.

More than half said they either strongly agreed or tended to agree that the average British person welcomed refugees to the UK.

The poll was commissioned by the charity Refugee Action as part of Refugee Week, starting today.

Peter Yoak, a refugee from war-torn Sudan, who now lives in Bolton, Greater Manchester, said: "I find that most British people I meet are welcoming, friendly and polite. Of course you find a couple who are not like that, but that is the same everywhere. As a nation though, I think Brits are tolerant and kind.

"The Queen is a respected public figure the world over and I am a big admirer of hers."

The survey also showed that more than nine in 10 refugees gave something back to their local communities by getting involved in religious, education or neighbourhood groups or organisations.

Jill Roberts, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: "This is a very positive poll and challenges a number of perceptions of the refugee experience in the UK.

"It's clear that, whatever issues remain in relation to public policy, the day-to-day experience of individual asylum seekers is broadly defined by public tolerance and acceptance, not suspicion or hostility.

"Refugees obviously continue to face significant challenges, but the fact they find British people so welcoming is hugely encouraging."

Refugee Week is a nationwide programme of events to bring Britons and refugees closer, through a Simple Acts Campaign, using everyday actions such as watching a film about exile or having a cup of tea and a chat with an asylum seeker.

More information can be found at http://www.refugeeweek.org.uk

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