Asylum seekers and refugees

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Chapter 1

Introduction

This dissertation focuses on the service network for asylum seekers and refugees and the way in which they promote integration into the local community. The term ‘migrant’ is often used generally; however for this research it is important to distinguish the different categories that migrants fall into, as their reasons for migration vary. A legal immigrant is someone who is free to, ‘enter, work and settle in a country without any restrictions’ (Bloch 2008). In contrast to this, the term ‘illegal immigrant’ could apply to those who have: ‘entered a country illegally, without permission from an Immigration Officer’ (UNHCR 2008). ‘Economic migrant’ is another term to separate migrants from refugees and asylum seekers, This term, economic migrant, is used to describe people who leave their country of origin in search of work, they voluntarily choose to leave their home county and can return when they wish to (UNHCR 2008). It is certainly not a new term. After the Black Death of 1348 nearly one third of the population was wiped out. This ‘produced a gap in the labour market that immigrants were eager to fill’ (Winder 2005). More recently large numbers of economic migrants arrived in Britain in 1945 due to another severe shortage of labour following the Second World War (McDowell 2003). The terms ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘refugees’ are often used interchangeably by the media, giving the impression that they mean the same thing; however, officially, there is a distinct difference between the two terms. A common definition used for the term asylum seeker is: ‘a person seeking refuge in a nation other than his or her own’ (OED 2007). The important word in this definition is ‘seeking’, as they have not yet been granted the right to remain in the country where they have claimed asylum. Leuder et al. (2008) write that, according to the law, when an individual arrives in the UK (without permission from an immigration officer), they are an asylum seeker. They submit an application for asylum and once that is accepted then they become a refugee. Originally ‘asylum seeker’ meant ‘spontaneous refugee’ and it was first used after the influx of Tamil refugees in Europe during 1984 (Robinson et al. 2003). In the USA asylum seekers and refugees were first seen as people, ‘fleeing from communism, welcomed from behind the iron curtain’ (Cohen, 1994). Johnson et al., (2000) write that ‘refugees’ are ‘displaced people who are unable or unwilling to return to their homeland because they are facing persecutions for reasons such as, race, religion or nationality differences’. It is important to note that these definitions are not always used in this way, as different combinations are often employed depending on personal preferences and perceptions. A number of researchers conversed with some asylum seekers and refugees who took on a range of titles acknowledging both their legal title and their personal perspectives. Sales (2002) reports that the terms have developed into new social categories. These terms label ‘asylum seekers’

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