Snowden's case shows it's not easy to gain refugee status

If you read the tabloids you might think the UK is full of asylum seekers lazing about in Hampstead council mansions

Share
Related Topics

Edward Snowden is currently the most famous asylum seeker in the world after reportedly applying for refugee status in countries including Russia, Germany, Spain and Ecuador.

In many ways Snowden is far removed from the average asylum seeker. He is an American ex-spy, is assisted by WikiLeaks in his pursuit of asylum and was at one point believed to have been hiding in the Bolivian President’s plane. But the case of Edward Snowden means that people are reading about asylum, an issue that is shrouded by misconceptions.

Tabloids and popular myths can make it appear as though western countries are perennially flooded by refugees. Opinion polling in 2012 showed that four out of 10 people in the UK believed that more than 10 per cent of the population are asylum seekers. The actual figure is less than 1 per cent.

Most asylum seekers are not American ex- spies who flee to Hong Kong en route to Moscow. Last year the largest number of any country came from war torn Afghanistan. Indeed the high correlation between countries that endure large scale violence (like Afghanistan and Iraq) or human rights abuses (China) and the number of people who flee them explains a lot. People are literally fleeing for their lives.

Snowden is currently residing in Moscow airport enduring the kind of waiting and sheer stress that thousands of asylum seekers suffer each year. In Britain a United Kingdom Border Agency caseworker will aim to complete a case within six months. This means that someone can spend many months living off benefits far lower than job seekers allowance and at the same time not knowing whether they will be granted asylum.

As Snowden is finding, it is not easy to gain refugee status. In the UK in 2011 only a third of asylum applications were accepted in the first place. For those who appealed there was a success rate of just 22 per cent. The facts make it clear that Britain is not opening the gates and beckoning everyone in.

If you read the tabloids you might be forgiven for thinking that the UK is full of refugees lazing about in Hampstead council mansions at the expense of tax payers. Instead a single asylum seeker aged over18 will receive £36.62 a week. A few months ago there was a great deal of fuss over whether Iain Duncan Smith would be able to live on £53 a week. Perhaps it's time that someone asks Minister of State for Immigration Mark Harper if he can live off £36.62 a week.

Of course Snowden’s case is very different to that of the vast majority of asylum seekers. He is not fleeing war and he is not being persecuted for his religious or political beliefs, at least in the conventional sense. But his case does bring asylum into the public eye. And it’s time people found out more about an issue that is both so serious and so misunderstood.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower