Migration … getting behind the headlines

By Rebecca Riley

With the impact of refugees, asylum seekers and migration receiving high levels of media coverage at the moment, this blog highlights some of the statistics and recent research into the issues.

Asylum seekers and refugees’ nationalities change as crises hit. Briefings by The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford highlight that Syrian refugees have risen from 5th in the league to 3rd in 2014, and given recent images in the news this position is likely to rise. The year before, Eritrea made first place. In the 12 months to June 2015 there has been a 62% increase in applications across Europe. In 1992/3 there was a surge in applications due to conflict in Kosovo and the Balkans, the last time similar numbers and make up of applicants were seen. In a normal year, 3 out of 4 applicants are men, of working age, as they are more able to make the journey and most likely to be in danger within an oppressive regime. In mass migration this changes dramatically to what we are seeing now, with families and lone children taking the risk in order to survive.

In 2014 59% of asylum applications were initially refused with 28% of them eventually approved. On average (in a normal year) 30% stay and are classed as refugees.

Over the same time period as these averages, the numbers of asylum seekers entering the EU have grown, but the UK share has shrunk in relative terms from 10% to 5%, less per capita than the European average. A report from the Children’s Society found that levels of support have not risen since 2011, representing a cut in real terms of almost 7.5%, pushing asylum seekers below the poverty line.

Underlying this there are complex trends however, with recent rises in applications notably from Nigeria, Ukraine and Iraq. Even without Syrian refugees there is a continuing rise in asylum seekers.

Net migration in the UK is at 330,000 in the year ending March 2015. Foreign born nationals now account for 8m of the population. The number is driven by both EU and non-EU migrants, in almost equal proportions. This proportion is similar across most EU countries. It is worth remembering that students account for a significant proportion of migration figures and (depending on the measure used) can account for half of net migration figures. The Observatory also highlights recent research that found that EU citizens born outside the EU (i.e. someone now a British citizen in London, born in Australia, America or Japan) are more successful at finding jobs, get better paid and are doing more skilled work than the average for EU citizens.

So what further analysis and discussion has there been?

A recent report by Centreforum, proposes reforms to the UK asylum system to ensure it operates in an efficient and humane fashion while maintaining public confidence, including reducing reliance on detention, reintroduction of the right to work and a humane response to women asylum seekers.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has examined the problems facing destitute migrants in the UK and looks at potential solutions, focussing on the legal aspects and the support services in place.

The Institute for Public Policy Research report on a fair deal for migration in the UK, looks at way to recognise the social and cultural impacts of migration, and makes recommendations for integration and an upfront levy for the use of free public services.

The common hypothesis that welfare is a strong magnet for immigrants has been contested by the Centre for European Policy Studies.


Further reading

The move-on period: an ordeal for new refugees

Welfare across borders: a social work process with adult asylum seekers

28 days later: experiences of new refugees in the UK

“What’s going to happen tomorrow?” Unaccompanied children refused asylum

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