These are the most vilified people in Britain

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The Independent Online

For the past two months asylum seekers have been vilified by the tabloids for preying on our good nature and misusing our welfare state.

For the past two months asylum seekers have been vilified by the tabloids for preying on our good nature and misusing our welfare state.

In a climate of increasing hysteria, they have been denounced by a government minister for the habit of begging with children and threatened with internment by the leader of the opposition.

With record numbers of would-be refugees arriving on these shores, the asylum issue becomes increasingly contentious almost by the day.

Immigration staff are under intense pressure to process claims, with the backlog in cases standing at around 98,000 - despite a record 11,340 decisions being made last month.

Refugee support groups fear the number of positive decisions has fallen sharply while lawyers are dealing with allegations that reasons are not always given for refusals.

And there are fears that those given permission to stay will end up living in ghettos.

In Wales, local authorities have said they will not ditch asylum seekers already on housing waiting lists.

But Caron Jennings, a volunteer with the Welsh Refugee Council, said: "Our main fear is that they will put them in ghettos where there is a high degree of racism or in sub-standard estates where no one else wants to live."

Last month a group of Romanians were loaded on to coaches and taken from south London to Scotland, as part of voluntary dispersal agreement between Glasgow City Council and the London boroughs.

Within a week they were back in Wandsworth after some were found begging in a middle-class area of Glasgow.

Wandsworth described Glasgow's "panic" reaction as "outrageous" and Glasgow responded by saying they had answered a request for help voluntarily and had been let down. As a result the City Council has suspended all future arrangements to take refugee families.

Despite the hostility that many asylum seekers have encountered Ibrahim, who fled Lebanon after being denounced as an Israeli spy, said the British treated him well.

But like so many others, he would still rather go home. "I still don't feel comfortable," he said. "I would never dream to come here and live in one room with my family when I had a good life in my country."

Vladimir, who came to Britain last July from Kosovo, had his claim for asylum turned down but said he planned to appeal because he wanted his children to have a better life.

It is barely a year since Serb paramilitaries gunned down his brother, his sister-in-law and their two young children as part of the campaign to cleanse Kosovo of ethnic Albanians.

Vladimir, who lived next door, went outside to see what the noise was and was told that he, his wife and their three children had five minutes to leave or they too would be shot.

Arriving in Albania they paid £2,000 to traffickers who organised their journey to Britain.

He said: "We just wanted to get away, as far as possible from the bloodshed."

His sons - aged five, 12 and 16 - now attend school in this country and Vladimir said he is deeply grateful to Britain.

"I hope my sons will now have the chance of a better life than I did," he said. "If I went back now, who knows what I would do? I would still have the feelings of hatred and the need for revenge."

Jaranabi, 21, still bears the scars after he returned to his village in Sudan following the murders of father and brother.

As members of the nomadic Masalati tribe, they were seen as enemies by government forces and he was taken by soldiers to the capital Khartoum and imprisoned.

He managed to escape and arrived in England two weeks ago. He intends to make the most of the opportunities here. "I feel secure here although I miss my family very much," he said. I'm a young man and my intention is to learn and to build myself up however I can."