A recent report assesses the impact of anti-terrorism measures on refugees and asylum seekers.
The latest research report from the Refugee Council has found that refugees and asylum seekers also feel threatened by terrorist attacks. Also, they do support anti-terrorist measures but believe that the vast majority of such policies have had a negative impact on public attitudes towards them, ‘without yielding security benefits in return’.
In spring 2006, through the passing of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 and the Terrorism Act 2006, it became evident that the ‘present security paradigm permeated immigration and asylum policies’. Dr Anja Rudiger, of the Refugee Council, felt it imperative that the experiences and views of the people most affected by such legislation should be noted.
Though the government attested that these pieces of legislation would provide greater security and protection, the majority of those interviewed for the research felt that such legislation actually promoted further distrust of asylum seekers and refugees. ‘Rather than enhancing security’, states the report, ‘current anti-terrorism measures can contribute to creating communities of fear’.
Focus groups revealed that asylum seekers and refugees sought to come to the UK because of its perceived ‘safety and protection from persecution’. They also sought to flee from the exercise of ‘arbitrary power and violence and sought a future in a democratic country where the rule of law was accountable and grounded in universal human rights’. However, many of them expressed disappointment and disillusionment in their anticipation about life in the UK. Their expectations were unfulfilled.
The report further inquired into the experiences and views of asylum seekers and refugees as regards to perceived terrorist threats, changing public attitudes and the media and the policy-makers’ responses to terrorism since 9/11 and 7/7. In addition, the report also aimed to assess the impact that asylum seekers’ and refugees’ perceptions have had on civic and political participation, the asylum process and decisions, relations with the police, human rights culture, and the prevention of terrorism.
Overall, the general feeling that was expressed by participants in the research was that asylum seekers and refugees were now subject to increasing discrimination, racism and marginalisation. Recent policy changes in the context of the ‘terrorism discourse’ were also felt to have infringed on their rights and subsequently added an ‘undue burden on their lives’. These then went on to hinder community cohesion and integration for asylum seekers and refugees and further isolate them.
The report was funded by a grant from Oxfam GB and included a total of sixty-seven participants in ten focus groups across the UK. Dr Anja Rudiger, a political theorist and the research manager of the Refugee Council served as the primary researcher on the report.
The report can be downloaded from the Refugee Council website