Home Secretary David Blunkett describes Britain as being "swamped" with asylum seekers and people believe the UK takes a quarter of the world's refugees, a poll suggests.
Britain actually accepts 2% of all refugees and the United Nations says British restrictions are forcing asylum seeker numbers down across the industrialised world.
Last year a record 110,700 people claimed asylum in the UK. That's the largest number of arrivals to any industrialised nation, but as a proportion of the UK's population, it's not the highest figure.
The UK comes eighth on that count, receiving 1.8 applicants per 1,000 residents.
BBC One's interactive Asylum Day is on 23 July, presented by Rageh Omaar and Fiona Bruce.
Do these figures surprise you? Is Britain "swamped"? Are popular beliefs about asylum seekers worsened by the media? Are asylum laws working?
The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
I have heard from two asylum seekers the reasons that brought them to, in this case, Belgium, and I can assure you it is not a pleasure trip. Before they fled their countries, they both had felt a gun on their heads, and they were living in danger, anxiety and fear. Now the are safe, yes, but they are far away from their home, separated from their families and starting life from zero in a foreign country. To Amanda Hall (below): compare this with not owning your own car and come back to reality, please. Oh, by the way. One works. The other is eighteen and was waiting to be given a place in a school. If you think they are just taking advantage, just swap places. Or do you think you deserve a better life just because you are British?
Let's be honest about this. Demographically speaking, we need to encourage immigration, not discourage it, otherwise in 20 years time there will not be enough people of working age to support those of pensionable age. By definition, that means more "foreigners". Why don't we welcome them as the saviours of our old-age prosperity rather than vilifying them as scroungers? Without them we face real crisis in the next 20-30 years.
As a poor, disabled pensioner waiting for hospital treatment, I resent racist bigots using me as a reason why asylum seekers should not be welcome in our country. Give me the chance to offer help to any, and I would be very pleased to do so. I have seen first-hand the results of prejudice and victimization in other countries and would prefer ten people erroneously to be allowed to stay here, rather than chance omitting one who really needs asylum to be refused. God forbid that we as a Nation ever have to tolerate such mean-spirited treatment from others.
S. Manser, UK
It's interesting to note that many comments here state that if you're against the influx of asylum seekers, you are obviously a narrow minded, unintelligent bigot too easily influenced by the tabloid press. Well, have those people in favour of such mass asylum ever stopped to consider the long term consequences; have they ever even contemplated that it is their own beliefs that are misguided and don't fit in with the real world? Their constant criticism and belittling of other people's opinions reveal who are truly the bigots. I've met many people like this, trying to be moral and caring, but they've always been very cold, unfriendly and strongly resent everyone that disagrees with their opinion. Britain has listened to these people whine and complain for far too long now, let's listen to the instincts of the majority of our nation and close our doors before our country collapses in on itself.
R Callister, UK
People claim that it is only numbers of asylum seekers that are the problem, and that we can't cope with so many people. But if that's so, why aren't we worried about all the people who come here from the white Commonwealth, and EU citizens who are not even subject to any immigration control and can take up residence here without hindrance - there are many more of these people each year than there are asylum seekers. Don't they use services and live in houses too? Focusing on one group of people as a problem for no rational reason other than that you are fixed against them is bigoted. The problems in the NHS, education and housing are because of underfunding and government policies, not asylum seekers. People moan about taxes, but we spent £1.2 billion on the asylum last year, including health care, legal aid and benefits, out of a total budget of £400billion. It's a few pounds per head per year.
Loraine Bayley, England
I enjoyed all the programs but found it incredible there being no BNP representative in the studio and hardly a mention of them all night, which was obviously deliberate. Trying to suppress peoples political views in this completely underhand way does democracy no favours. .Also they could've chosen some people of more eloquence to put the anti-asylum argument. The people they chose were hopeless, and I suspect that's why they were picked.
When an asylum seeker was found to have been given leave to stay almost all the studio audience clapped in sympathy, but the national vote was 3 to 1 against. I wouldn't call the audience a balanced reflection of the country at large by a million miles.
We are just a sponge for those that want free money, free health care and free homes. The government should pass an immediate law that you cannot claim free medical care or social security benefit unless you can prove that you have paid into the system for at least five years. This would wheedle the genuine asylum seekers out from the spongers.
Jennifer Tombling, England
I am depressed by the closed minds of those people who can listen to real tales of torture and desperation and yet still remain hardened.
Instead of pandering to the prejudice of the right wing press, our government should be doing more to educate and inform. It is no good having laws on racial equality if there isn't an effort made to educate people.
The voting on last night's "The Asylum Game" made it very clear what the views of the majority of British people are. We are supposedly a democracy and it is about time that the government's response to asylum and illegal immigration reflected the real views of most British people. Britain is full. It's time to close the doors.
I find it hard to understand why people are outraged at asylum seekers 'daring' to seek a safe haven here when our own government are partly responsible for making countries unsafe in the first place. And what about the millions that are wasted on weapons yearly instead of on our public services? Vulnerable groups in society will always be blamed for its problems: the government must positively welcome this transfer of blame because let's face it, it lets them off many a hook.
In my opinion, as few as 1% of asylum seekers have true reasons for seeking sanctuary in the UK, the rest are inventing hardship & fear of violence to enhance their claim for asylum. This puts genuine claims in a long queue for help, therefore, there should be a faster system to give the genuine cases help & the con merchants a plane ticket home. Secondly, all "Do-gooders" should realise that two asylum seekers today usually have four or five nationalised children tomorrow and, whilst we have a lot of employment at the moment, later we may have a slump in the economy which leaves a lot of ethnic minority youths with chips on their shoulders, on the streets, looking for someone to blame for their problems. I don't think they will blame their parents, do you?
Vic , UK
The BBC programs were well publicised tonight. Regrettably the British society is endemically racist. Despite comments about our multi cultural society. It became a forum for the ignorant majority to air their views. We have no idea in this country what it is like to be persecuted. And how can we criticize economic migrants when there are so many English people playing the system; claiming benefits, working cash in hand, thieving etc
Mickey Monk, England
After watching the Asylum Day programme where the cases were judged by the audience, I could not believe the single-minded, one argument comments of the "anti" asylum panel. Their only argument seemed to be that the asylum seekers had travelled through many other countries before reaching Britain. Talk about stating the obvious - Britain IS an Island!
Maybe one way of dealing with the 'bogus' claimants would be to set up a "shop your asylum seeker" hotline, the same as is currently in place for Benefit Fraud. I know at least 6 asylum seekers that have been refused and should be removed but nothing has been done to attempt to find and remove them.
To those that claim we cannot support asylum seekers, how many do you think we would have been able to support had we not invaded Iraq.
Come to think of it, do you know by how much the figure of asylum seekers would have been lowered if that 'war' had never gone ahead?
Britain is partly responsible for what goes on globally and as such must and needs to shoulder its fair share of responsibility.
And asylum seekers.
There are comments about being disgusted at the results of the polls on "You The Judge". Correct me if I'm wrong but we live in a democracy; the majority have spoken! If they don't like it, they're welcome to leave!!!
Leah Jones, UK
After watching last nights programme it has only clarified my opinion that most "Asylum Seekers" are here to gain what they can from our country. They are not interested in working and contributing to the country as they all receive cash in hand. The genuine cases of asylum seekers are obviously in the minority. But the do-gooders are in a great position to automatically pull out the "race card¿. It has nothing to do with race but preserving our nation. I think the wrong side may have won the war.
Those who have expressed shock at the strong anti-asylum feeling being shown here and last night, have clearly not been listening to the recent election results. In the UK the BNP have been making gains which, up to about 5 years ago, would have been thought unimaginable. So why has this come to pass? Clearly people see that the country cannot take an infinite number of refugees and probably perceive that saturation point was reached some time back.
In any case, unless the politicians stop ignoring the growing BNP vote, then they do the country a dis-service.
England's social infrastructure is in turmoil. Education, Health, Transport, Law and Order seem to be at breaking point. It appears that most tax paying adults in the UK see standards falling and valuable funds and resources being consumed by asylum seekers at our expense. With the continued influx standards are set to fall further or ordinary people will be forced to pay even more taxes to subsidise those who come here having contributed nothing. Perhaps the United Nations should act positively against the countries these asylum seekers are leaving? Why burden countries who are struggling (eg the UK) when the real issue elsewhere remains unresolved? I believe we should stop accepting ANYONE else until the UK has resolved it's own problems.
I watched "Asylum: you The Judge" and found the mentality of the "anti" group profoundly depressing. "Little England" in all it's mean spirited, blinkered, ignorant, uncompassionate inhumanity. I would welcome sending some of these people to spend time in Mugabe's Zimbabwe (for example) to give them a lesson on reality. I felt ashamed to be human listening to these people, never mind ashamed to be British!
I could only marvel at the contrasting grace and forbearance with which refugees in the studio expressed themselves in the face of such sub-human piggery.
But what hope do we have when the popular media continually thrust anti-refugee stories down the throats of the masses?
Peter Sharpe, Uk
Reading the views here on this page, one would think that national opinion was 50-50 on this subject. In my view, the reality is, that most people in this country are vehemently opposed to the asylum seeker/economic migrant coming to this country at the numeric levels at which they do. Also, the television programme's analysis of the viewer's vote was able to break it down to gender and age. I, like many other young voters, voted via "text message". How was the corporation able to extract such information from this? I feel the BBC is biased and do their best to misrepresent the general view.
To Alan Wilson, Liverpool. The vast majority of people in this country are not vehemently opposed to immigration; in fact we are mortified at the rhetoric and behaviour of our fellow Britain's towards people wishing to settle in this country. The media that is biased is the sensation seeking tabloid newspapers most of whom are owned by first or second generation economic migrants.
I consider myself fairly hostile to asylum seekers, but last night's Panorama convinced me that the current system is a complete mess. The programme mentioned that in Holland, the majority of applications are processed within 5 days - so why does it take months and months and months to sort out cases here? The Home Office is clearly part of the problem in this respect, and not part of the solution.
However, even granted the long, bureaucratic processes, simply leaving asylum seekers on the streets is clearly inhumane and unwise. Either we need to detain them all until their cases are decided, or we need to give them work permits so they start paying into the system and supporting themselves. That way there would be no demand for these criminal gangs that were featured trading in false papers.
This may be too late but I felt I had to put pen to paper after last night's excellent programme on asylum. I am one of the many (made very clear by the results of the polls) that are now totally against asylum seekers entering this country. Where I believe that we should be able to help our fellow human beings, we are too often seen as a soft touch and those that are not justified, come here in their droves. Our education, health and transport systems are on their knees; we can't support the people of Britain let alone thousands more. I begrudge the fact that 25% of my hard earned money goes on tax each month; I pay my way and am nearly 30 years old and can't afford to buy a car or a house. If I were an asylum seeker, I would get free housing; how is that fair? The programme claimed that thousands of claims are rejected but these people aren't sent home; they disappear, it's outrageous. We need ID cards, tougher borders and controls, fast-track claims so when they are rejected, we can send them back immediately. Racial tension in this country is reaching new heights and it is time the government sat up and took note. Well done the BBC; at last a forum for our frustrated voices to be heard!!
Amanda Hall, UK
After watching the You the judge with Fiona Bruce and Rageeh Omah, I was horrified. I expect there to be a difference of views on this matter, but I was appalled that the public vote refused all 4 claims. I am not saying that all the cases should automatically be granted asylum but really! I thought as a nation we were fairly compassionate - how wrong I was. Is this a sign of how much tabloids have whipped up public opinion or was the result twisted by an organised campaign by right wing elements. If these results are true I am not proud of my country or its population.
Neil Smallburn, United Kingdom
Lets just face it most of those who protest against asylum seekers are racists! They don't even care about there circumstances
To Samsul, England: Your attitude is partly the reason why no sensible debate on this issue can be held. You cannot call the people who hold an opposing opinion to yourself racists. That makes you a bigot!
I am not racist but I feel strongly about the numbers of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants coming into this country. My reasons are that this small island and its economy cannot withstand the influx - something will have to give. I pay an unreasonable amount of tax and it enrages me to see how this is wasted. I also feel that the government would do well to give the same priorities and help to our own needy. It's all very well helping the poorer countries, but this should not be at the cost of our own.
I lived in Germany for 5 years, but I worked hard, paid tax, learned the language and claimed nothing!
Samsul, do you fully understand what racism is? Using your opinion that negativity towards asylum seekers is racist, does that make you racist for having negative opinions of thieves, drug dealers, and muggers?
People are not against asylum seekers because of skin colour, religion, or other beliefs. They are against asylum because the UK is an island, and we can only take so much before everything disappears under concrete, and people start falling from the cliffs.
I've just watched the BBC interactive Asylum Day with Rageh Omaar. I was horrified by some of the anti immigration views and the high votes against the asylum seekers. I strongly disagree. Where is our compassion and humanity? I hope the statistics don't really represent the views of the average person in the UK. Of course some are not genuine and should be returned but that shouldn't alter our ability to be fair to those who are genuine.
I strongly support a fairer and more compassionate response. One problem may be that asylum seekers and refugees are sent to the poorest areas of the country where they are bound to be less welcome because there are fewer resources to go round. Why can't we welcome a share of these people in Newbury? I certainly would like the opportunity to do so.
Jackie P, England
As I write this, I'm watching the BBC's Panorama programme...as many other people in Britain are... and would now probably agree that it's an absolute disgrace how this government has allowed these so-called "asylum seekers" abuse this country!
Norman Day, UK
No honest person would reject a genuine asylum seeker, however too many economic migrants are being allowed through and only those in genuine need should be allowed to stay. Those who are allowed to stay though should have compulsory English lessons and employment training so that they can be useful to the country. They should also be helped to find homes and receive housing benefit to help them pay for it but should not jump the queue for council accommodation when so many people already resident in this country are in an equally desperate situation for housing. These people while, deserving of our help and sympathy should not be given special priority. They should be treated the same.
Sarah Westcott, England
The free movement of all people whatever their race, is in everyone's interest. As long as anyone wishing to live in Britain is able to support themselves through honest work, what is the problem? Many people associate immigration with crime and sponging off the state. Perhaps these are the real problems we should be dealing with!
Joe Giovanelli, UK
Why don't all those people who are so keen to welcome asylum seekers into this already over-burdened island put them up at their own homes?
This country cannot afford to take these people and a disproportionate amount of taxpayers' money is being spent accommodating these people many of whom are not seeking 'asylum' but are seeking a better life at the British taxpayer's expense... This is the equivalent of me going to the posh area of my neighbourhood, knocking on the front door of the nicest house in the district and saying "I want to live here with you because I don't like the house I live in".... and expecting them to take me in!
This country is crumbling at the hands of the politically correct.
Emailing on behalf of my mother who was on the first Kindertransport in late 1938 and who was appalled by the self-righteous attitudes of some of the people she saw on You The Judge. She wonders what this country is coming to when people can give such mindless reasons for their lack of compassion. She wishes they would try to imagine themselves into the asylum-seekers' shoes.
I believe that the acceptance of refugee's claiming political asylum should be accepted no matter what. Big and rich countries like ourselves should take responsibility for people for whichever reason can not do it for themselves. Although I do believe that the opposite side of the argument in the 'You the Judge' programme could have been represented by more articulate, sensible and informed persons.
Aside from all else we are morally obliged to take most asylum seekers. It matters not that our government helped create the problems. At a rough estimate, and with Germany as an example, we can absorb, financially, another 30-40 MILLION over 10-15 years. Much more than would happen. But, at the cultural and social level? Well, as it is a vote loser, the place (Parliament) where a committed change in attitude is required, is unlikely to lead the good fight.
Jonathan Mansfield, UK
I feel that we are being swamped by asylum seekers. More should be done very quickly to determine those that are genuine applications and the remainder returned to their starting point immediately. This may stop the traffickers making large profits out of their operations if it was generally perceived that we are not a soft touch.
There are, undoubtedly, some who deserve and require asylum, however, where do we draw the line? We cannot, literally, take the worries of the world on our shoulders. We are already overcrowded - the health service doesn't work. Education, housing and transport are failing because there are just too many people here.
Mrs Butler, England
Asylum seekers are coming here to find a life - most of them are willing to contribute to society & to work, which is more than can be said for most UK school-leavers, who feel the world owes them. Stop treating these people like criminals! - whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?
Mark Rowbottom, UK
There are plenty of safe EU countries between the UK and Turkey, so why come to the UK. Again a soft touch.
Ian Smith, England
As a local councillor, one of the problems encountered is when asylum seekers are refused right to stay. They are left with nothing. They can't work; they can't get healthcare; all that is left is charity and the black economy. I feel that if an asylum claim is refused people should be removed from the country as soon as possible because this twilight world helps nobody and just serves to stir up resentment.
Penny Heathwood, England
If people are suffering for their political beliefs why can't they keep quiet for their own safety?
ALAN MORRISON, UK
I don't believe that Britain is being swamped by asylum seekers. However they seem to be compressed into certain areas of the country, usually run down inner city estates, which may give the impression that there are more than there actually are. The populist press latches onto this and exacerbates the situation further with alarming headlines aimed at creating a moral panic, as this is the way that it continues to sell papers. I also think that it is wrong of government ministers to back up these claims when they are in possession of the true facts and figures.
Donna Pepper, UK
The asylum policy in this country has nothing to do with helping people flee persecution; it's all about slavery. The rich want to get richer and so immigrants are brought into this country to do the low paid jobs. As Martin Luther King said: "You may have lost your chains but don't become economic slaves."
Darren Crank, UK
The reason the asylum seekers and "economic migrants" travel over the whole of Europe to get to the UK is because we are a soft touch. Until we bring in laws which stop people claiming money from this country until they have paid into it, immediately deport anyone who commits a crime whilst they are here or incites racial hatred and stop granting legal aid to asylum seekers/economic migrants to fight deportation they will keep coming. Personally I resent every penny of tax I pay going to these people.
Mrs. K Anderson,
Why don't those people who claim this island is being overrun with asylum seekers ever acknowledge facts?
If it wasn't for immigrants and asylum seekers our population would be in serious decline. Who do people think are going to be paying their pensions, fighting in their armies and building their industries n the future?
Simon O'Brien, UK
It necessary that the western world helps people in need.
The government are picking on easy targets, people who are honest and are going through official channels to claim asylum so that they can publish figures which will please those who are too narrow minded to accept diversity and embrace people who wish to make a better life for themselves here. At the same time those who are illegal immigrants who should not be allowed to stay and are flouting the law are not being dealt with.
People should be treated as individuals and given a bit of dignity and respect, when they respect the systems of the land they have come to. How many English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish people have moved to other countries simply to flee poverty and make a better life for themselves, never mind fleeing war, famine, rape and social injustice? Are we not hypocrites for not accepting others who wish to make a life for themselves in our country?
Sheelagh, Belfast, N.Ireland
It is quite simple, Britain is a small country. We do not have the space to take in millions of people. Our NHS cannot cope with British people, let alone immigrants. Why should my taxes goes to immigrants who have never worked in Britain when pensioners who have worked in this country their entire lives are forced to live on peanuts?
Political asylum seekers and refugees of war have already passed through many safe countries to reach our shores. I understand that they come here because of the language but if we did turn them away, France, Germany, even the Czech Republic would have given them a safe home.
I caught the end of programme on Asylum seekers, and it seemed to be that there is no official route to claiming asylum until you get in to the country where you want to claim asylum. I think a good policy would be to do claims for asylum through the UN, or set up another organisation to look after the world's asylum seekers. Have a UN or world wide policy. And like embassies have sites in all countries, and these sites are protected by UN or international law, so that asylum seekers can go in and apply for asylum, and be protected and supported while claims go through.
George Orwell's 1984 had "thought crime" where you were in dire trouble if you were suspected of anti-state feeling, and "face crime" if you didn't look suitable pleased about state production figures. Why am I mentioning this? Because political correctness is the new thought crime. How long before "face crime" is a criminal offence in this lunatic, politically correct country?
Historically where I live in London's east end, we have always accepted immigrants. Over the years these people have gone to great lengths to integrate into the local community. Many formed businesses which employed locals and still do to this day. The trouble is nowadays immigrants are all placed in one area. Hence they carry on their own traditions, continue to speak their own language and stay in their own little groups. These people need to integrate a lot more in the local community, get themselves involved in local issues and maybe the people of Britain would be a little bit more accepting of them.
I don't think this issue is as black and white as people make it out to be. Maybe these people are given work permits, but many of them do the jobs that others won't - how many people who submit comments here, I wonder, are willing to spend their days sweeping the roads, collecting rubbish or work the farms?
On the other hand, the population of Britain is rapidly expanding and for an island of its size, can we really afford to accept more and more people? To add to Harry Edge's comments, why does it need to be the south east, why is that area so special? Much of the north of England, Scotland and Wales suffer from a shortage of workers and could perceivably benefit from asylum seekers.
Paul, Isle of Man
What I find sickening is when people say "asylum seekers do the jobs that British people won't" - straight away it turns them into second class citizens. If wages were in line with the hardiness of the job then perhaps more Brits would be prepared to do that type of work. And that is the crux of the asylum issue to me. It is just profiteering off the backs of the world's poor by a few rich. Who is more essential, a street cleaner or yet another bureaucrat in an office?
This country has a good record in assisting genuine victims of persecution yet this has been thoroughly abused by organised criminals, determined individuals and pressure groups. As an island nation it should be relatively easy to control illegal access, (Sept 11 we were told would result in stringent measures) but still they come, and many melt away and infiltrate into our society. Enough is enough. Before anybody begins to cry foul it should be remembered that there is only one oppressed minority in this country and they are the old age pensioners.
Two people per 1,000 seems little but it is a lot. Add the health, education and housing costs and long term growth in the population is a factor. This is a small island. If we want to have asylum seekers how is that Commonwealth citizens only get limited work visas and visitor permits? What about the insult to Jamaicans being asked to apply for visas because customs seem unable to stop drug smuggling? The immigration controls are a joke and as usual in this country, it's never put right.
I'm glad to see some signs of the anti-racist majority starting to speak up in defence of asylum seekers and immigrants. The media hype has now gone beyond offensive into plain daft (asylum seekers eating our swans?). And to those who claim anti-asylum attitudes are a result of real problems, how do you explain the election of an extreme-right councillor on an anti-asylum ticket in Broxbourne - a town which has never seen a single asylum seeker? Sorry, but at root it is racism. Well done to everyone challenging myths and attitudes; let's stick at it.
Ben Drake, York, UK
It's significant that those who want to let in every "asylum seeker" are not able to debate this issue properly. Instead they resort to calling their opponents racist (an interesting viewpoint given the hostility towards "asylum seekers" that you'll find amongst British people from ethnic backgrounds) and claiming the support of the "majority" (claiming the support of the majority is a good sign that you haven't got it).
Welcome to the land of the politically correct. Mention you are opposed to the euro and be pilloried as a "little Englander".
Discuss whether "UK asylum laws are working" and be dismissed as a right-wing racist.
Any chance of a discussion instead of personal attacks? I doubt it.
Steve Wade, UK
To reiterate what many others have said here: It is the numbers coming that upset people the most. I have yet to hear a politician come up with a sensible figure for how many extra people this already crowded island can accept.
If someone turned up on my doorstep one night with a story of a desperate escape I might well give them a bed for the night. But if the next night two came and the next night three and the next and so on. At some point my house is full and I've had to build an extension over the entire garden. Then of course the water supply and other services will be inadequate. Let's have a proper debate on this subject. Not one where some idiot calls "racism" as soon as the subject is brought up.
Karen Wood, England
The media use too many lies and inflammatory words simply in order to sell papers. Politicians use asylum and immigration issues to divert attention away from the real issues such as lack of progress in NHS, justice system, education, etc. What matters more - getting your health treated within a few weeks or having fewer asylum seekers coming to UK? When John Major was in power, single mums and the sick were the scapegoats for the problems in society. Today it is asylum-seekers/refugees/ immigrants. The most vulnerable will be used as scapegoats every time.
People have confused asylum and immigration. Immigrants have applied to move here and gone through a proper process before setting foot on these shores. They typically work hard and add value to this nation both culturally and to the GDP, such as the huge number of immigrant nurses working for the NHS. Asylum seekers, come in two varieties, political and economic. Genuine political asylum seekers should be welcomed with open arms but economic asylum seekers are not seeking asylum at all but just want a better life.
I don't blame them but it's called immigration but without the formal application. It is unfortunately these people that the UK are being swamped with. If the process turns them down most just stay anyway. It will unquestionably lead to a rise in far-right which will be to the detriment of the those genuine immigrants and political asylum seekers who did things the right way.
It's quite simple - we should operate an open door policy on asylum and have the courage of our so-called 'civilised' convictions. Anything less is corrupt, racist garbage whose main focus is one of continual abuse.
Garry Stork, UK
My concern with this issue is the way that right wing press and political groups have used it for their own means causing an aggressive and often violent backlash against asylum seekers. Whereas there may be a number of problems with the system in its inability to process applications effectively and to stop illegal immigrants whom are abusing the system. With the general public being made increasingly paranoid by propaganda about the war on "terrorism" it concerns me that we may never get to the truth with this issue.
Stephen Thompson, UK
The main problem is that the majority of the asylum seekers are located in a limited number of cities and not dispersed around the country, the concentration of them in one city causes a problem.
Di, North London
My husband and I are French and American and we live in the UK. Technically we are not refugees or asylum seekers (though one might argue I am one - seeking asylum from the Bush policies), but nevertheless this is home for now. As foreigners we are very aware of other foreigners and find that the majority of the racist comments are toward those who look or behave different. My husband is never discriminated against and yet I am constantly defending my right to be here. We are both Caucasians but he is white and I am of ethnic background.
Only recently someone accused me of coming over so I could claim benefits. We are both highly qualified and get nothing in return for our hard work. The media is the worst culprit with its negative oft time erroneous coverage of anything related to asylum and refugees, playing right into the hands of those with limited knowledge and intellect and giving those who want to win elections a rallying cry. The majority of the refugees, when given the opportunity work very hard, taking jobs and pay that no Brit would want to do. At one time the English ruled half the world - a world which they pillaged leaving behind problems that are coming home to roost. In my book its time for payback. No Britain is not swamped with refugees and asylum seekers, go see the camps in Pakistan or Iran, to name but two.
Jo (UK) paints a very prejudiced view of racism in this country. For every person who accuses her of being a parasite, there are hundreds of thousands who treat her no differently from anybody else. Britain left its former colonies in a good state from which most have prospered. Citizens from those countries have always enjoyed special status here. Far from "problems coming home to roost", Jo will find most ethnic minorities in this country fairly happy with their lot. It is grossly unfair to tar us all with the racist brush wielded by a small minority. By the same logic, we could judge the US by the antics of Mr Bush!
Statistics that show that nearly 111,000 asylum seekers is not the highest if taken in proportion with the UK population is missing the point. This is a very small island compared with the likes of France, Germany, Spain etc, and cannot sustain the growth in population this uncontrolled immigration will result in. Our roads are already overcrowded, the NHS is crumbling, there is not enough housing for the people already here and the elderly British are treated as second class citizens due to lack of resources.
I tend to think the issue of asylum seekers lays in a grey area somewhere between what the government admits to and what the media claims. I think a better system is required to filter out any bogus asylum seekers of which I am sure there are many, whilst also protecting any genuine claims to asylum. The government must also accept the fact that we are only a island with limited space and resources including a health service which is already stretched to breaking point, looking after the people who already live in this country that one day in the future are borders will have to be closed, This is not racist but it is common sense.
Steve Pearce, England
The perceived problems of asylum seekers is propaganda created to use asylum seekers as scapegoats in the same way African/Caribbeans were in the 80s. Firstly more homes are not required in the south east or anywhere for that matter due to 'swamping'. The real reason is in fact the change in family structure due to high divorce rate and more women seeking careers thus less people on average per house requiring more houses.
Secondly immigrants to this country of which asylum seekers are a part of produce a net fiscal gain of £1.1 billion per annum. Hence they do 'drain the state' when looked at as part of a larger collective of immigrants who include thousands of highly qualified professionals entering this country. In fact if you look closely at the asylum laws the obvious conclusion is not that we are soft touches but many other nations are extremely tough eg France.
Luc Altmann, UK
To Luc Altmann,
Do not confuse asylum and immigration.
The asylum system costs £1.8 billion.
The net gain due to all migration was £1.1 billion.
In other words nearly two-thirds of the benefits of legal migration was wiped out by the cost of asylum.
Britain may "accept" only 2% but what of the thousands of asylum seekers who are not accepted but remain here illegally? The only way Britain is forcing down asylum figures is by the government allowing so many to remain here in the UK unrecorded.
David, Cambridge, UK
The problem is that immigration is on such a large scale and I'm not talking about illegal immigrants that it will eventually lead to the total collapse of the system in the UK. In education, 150 unaccompanied children arrive a month, that is the equivalent of five classrooms and they have priority placement over native children. In the health service there are so many legal migrants that a new acute hospital needs to be built every year and staff trained to run it. It's not even possible to run to keep still that's why waiting lists aren't coming down.
I find the comments of Stephen, England about the education and health services bizarre. He claims these services cannot cope because of immigrants needing education and health services. Does he not realise how many immigrants work in these services? Where would we be without foreign teachers, nurses etc propping up the system?
I live in a city where there are people of all nationalities. I wouldn't say we are swamped. The newspapers hype up the figures and case stories of asylum seekers which in turn causes bad blood, as readers believe that asylum seekers are sponging from the country. Yes some do, but the majority I know work damn hard for their money, often getting up at 4 or 5am to go to work on minimum wage. Show me a person on benefits who will do that instead of claiming from the state?
I believe that having a population as diverse as ours can only benefit the country and provide better relations with other countries. It also helps that many asylum seekers can speak several different languages which can help us communicate more effectively with others.
Human migration is complex and global. Managing human migration, including asylum seekers, requires a multi-tiered and global strategy. Part of the strategy would be to open up the EU to citizens of other places who wish to work here for a time limited period. They are now forced to come illegally or stay illegally. Secondly, EU deportation treaties need more attention. You can only "send them home" if "home" accepts them. Thirdly, some people have no home to go to. Somalia has not had a functioning government for years. International efforts to develop source countries are needed.
It is easy to find an asylum seeker with a tale to tell who any right minded citizen would think worthy of shelter in this country. The same perhaps for 10,000 asylum seekers. But what about 100,000, 500,000, 1m asylum seekers? At what point does a valid case for one become unacceptable for the many? I have yet to hear anyone seriously address this issue.
David Lester, United Kingdom
Yes, there is room for improvement. Politicians and the tabloids exaggerate the importance of stemming illegal immigration because it sells newspapers and is a vote winner. Illegal immigration must be stopped. However the problem isn't as serious as is suggested or believed.
Mark Jordan, United Kingdom
I personally do not have a problem with people seeking asylum in this country. I do have a problem with them selecting Britain all the time, instead of one of the many other safe havens within Europe. Surely it is time that the EU decides where asylum seekers are distributed.
The problem with asylum seekers is not the people themselves, but the downright ignorance of some people pronouncing on the subject and the irresponsible reporting by the media. The idea that Britain is somehow a 'soft touch' is nonsense.
We will need to build over a million new homes in the already overcrowded south east of England to accommodate the huge numbers of legal and illegal immigrants arriving on our shores. Mass immigration and the abuse of the asylum system are ruining our country. It's time the people of Britain acted to stop this situation before it gets even more out of hand.
Harry Edge, UK
The laws need clarifying so that anyone who comes through a safe country should be automatically returned with no appeal. If they came through a safe country to get here then why didn't they claim asylum there? Roughly 85,000 asylum seekers in one year (and that's only the ones the government admits to) is utterly ridiculous for a country our size. And making asylum seekers legal by giving them work permits isn't solving it either, they're still here!
Huw Morgan, UK
If there is a British citizen who would not do all he or she could to better their lives, then, to paraphrase another wise man, let them cast the first stone. You cannot blame these people for wanting to come here ( you can of course wonder why they would want to...). The problem is our government just dumps them in the same areas, curiously away from the areas inhabited by the rich and wealthy, then acts all surprised when all hell breaks loose. This creates ghettos and no-go areas. Still, as long as they are not too near you and I, eh?
Jane Rawlings, England
2% is a red herring! It's not the number that's accepted (which is, in any case, too high!) that matters - it's the number that stays illegally that's the concern! Most are illegal immigrants - NOT "asylum seekers".
Both the fuss surrounding the issue of asylum and the treatment of those seeking asylum in this country are absolutely disgusting. I am constantly appalled by most of the media coverage of the issue, which tends to range from the ill-considered to the downright racist.
Ben Smith, UK