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French Claims that Sangatte Problem is a Result of UK Asylum Policy are Dangerous Nonsense

Dr Daniéle Joly
Originally Published 6 September 2001

Daniéle Joly, Director of the University of Warwick's Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, today stated that French claims that problems such as Sangatte were a result of UK asylum policy being out of step with the rest of Europe were "dangerous nonsense that will simply fuel the unhealthy climate of paranoia about asylum policy already present within the UK". Dr Joly says:

"French claims that problems such as Sangatte arise because UK asylum policy is out of step with the rest of Europe are simply nonsense only serves only to further fuel the dangerous fears and paranoia that some people within the UK already have in regard to asylum seekers"

Dr Joly points out that the only real difference between UK and French asylum policy is that France only recognises the state as a possible source of persecution when considering applications for asylum, whereas the UK (like many other European countries) recognises that there can be other sources of persecution. Even this difference means nothing in the case of the events around the Sangatte Red Cross camp as many of the asylum seekers involved in the incidents there have been Afghans or Iraqi Kurds who would clearly claim the state was the agency causing them to seek asylum.

Past research by Dr Joly clearly shows that a country's asylum policy plays little role in an asylum seeker's choice of country. She examined the reasons why Ghanaian and Sri Lankan asylum seekers chose to come to the UK. When offered 6 reasons to choose from she found that they consistently ranked the presence of fellow countrymen already within their target country who could act as an initial support base as the number one reason for choosing that country. Historic and cultural and language ties between their country and the UK were consistently ranked as the 2nd most important reason. The UK's actual asylum policy was ranked as the 6th and least important reason.

Dr Joly says "It is clear that that what matters most to asylum seekers is not asylum policy but virtually unalterable factors the most important of which is whether there is a community that can help them already established within their target country. The next most important factors are whether there are colonial or other historical ties between their country and their destination. English language countries will also obviously always be the most attractive to many asylum seekers"

For further details please contact:

Dr Daniéle Joly, Director
Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations
University of Warwick
Tel: 024 7652 4869