Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Express 'celebrates' Refugee Week with asylum splash

It's taken a while, but an asylum scare story is back on the front page of the Express. The ironic thing about Asylum chaos: the appalling truth is that there isn't much 'truth' in it.

What the Express counts on, of course, is that no one will actually read the full report and rely on its nasty little article. The basis of the report is a new report by the Public Accounts Committee which it claims is 'hard hitting' and provides a 'damning verdict on the Home Office's latest overhaul of the asylum system'.

Except, er, it doesn't.

The report's first line says:

In 2006, our predecessors published a critical report on the shortcomings in the removals system, making wide-ranging recommendations. Revisiting the subject of asylum applications and removals some three years on, we are pleased to note that the Home Office (the Department) has responded positively and progress has been made.


We are also pleased to note that, as a direct result of implementing our recommendations, the Department also established a separate process to clear the backlog of 400,000–450,000 legacy cases unresolved at the introduction of the New Asylum Model. The New Asylum Model has resulted in the Department reaching an initial decision more quickly and in cases being concluded faster than in 2006. We also have the Department’s firm assurance that the legacy cases will be cleared by 2011.

And in the first point of the recommendations:

The Department has made significant progress in the management of asylum applications through the New Asylum Model. Since our predecessors’ report Returning failed asylum seekers published in 2006, the Department has made substantial improvements in the management of asylum claims, but still faces major challenges to sustain this improvement.

Does this sound like a 'damning verdict' about 'chaos'? Not really. The report actually provides some quite balanced and justified criticism of the system (such as not having up to date IT, or reliable methods for researching cases and dispersal).

The Express meanwhile misquotes one section of the report. It claims: 'Ministers have 'some way to go' to reduce the backlog of up to 450,000 asylum claims'. In fact the 'some way to go' quote refers to the Department's target of completing cases within 6 months: 'The Department still has some way to go to meet its aims of reaching initial decisions in 80% of cases within two months of an application and of concluding all cases within six months.'

What the Express fails to acknowledge is that initial decisions in 2007 took on average 7 months, compared with 22 months when Labour took office in 1997.

The Express also claims:

the MPs warned how failed asylum seekers frequently manipulate the appeals system to stay in the country as long as possible. In some cases, MPs themselves are being drawn into anti-deportation campaigns to delay their removal.

But this part of the report is actually quoting the Home Office ('Of particular concern to the Department was abuse of the Judicial Review process to delay removal', p.17). Although the Home Office's claim that 'some applicants waited until, for example, removal directions were served upon them before triggering the next step in their legal campaign', would seem to be stating the obvious.

The Express sub-head states that 'Britain has a backlog of 450,000 cases'. The report itself says it is between 400,000 and 450,000 (now why wouldn't the Express assume the lower figure...?)

What the paper never mentions, however, is that in 2008, 155,000 backlog cases were resolved, so clearing this backlog by 2011 shouldn't be that problematic. What the Express does instead - in a piece of trickery that would make Migrationwatch proud - is put the 450,000 backlog case figure alongside the number of removals, which was 11,600 in 2008.

It's putting two different figures alongside each other to make everything seem far worse than actually is the case (155,000 v 11,600).

If you Google the headline of the story, the first result you get is the Express, the second is the story on the Stormfront ('White pride world wide') website - once again showing a link between such media coverage and the views of the far right.

This is particularly noteworthy this week, Refugee Week. If there has been any articles about the Week in the tabloids, they have passed me by. And why did none of the tabloids give any coverage to the Red Cross survey that the British public 'massively overestimate' the number of people seeking refuge in the UK. Its findings were that:

A massive 95% of the British public do not know how many people apply for asylum in the UK each year, with the vast majority hugely overestimating numbers...almost a quarter of the British public think more than 100,000 people apply for asylum in the UK each year, around four times the actual number of applications in 2008.

Now why would the Great British public get those ideas in their head...


  1. Nice post. I shall link it in a few days time - I'm time poor at the moment. Btw. You've put 11,6000 when you mean 11,600 twice.

  2. Thanks for the comment and link and the proof read - I'm also time poor, hence the errors!


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