Poll shows majority of public overestimates asylum seeker numbers in UK
More than half of people overestimated the number of asylum seekers in the UK according to a British Red Cross survey, as the charity warned of misconceptions and “polarising” public conversation on the issue.
The organisation, launching its state of the nation report on the UK asylum system, has produced interactive charts to help people “understand the realities of the asylum system” and “debunk myths”.
Migration has been a major talking point for the current Government with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowing a crackdown on illegal migration, often repeating one of his key pledges to “stop the boats”, referring to Channel crossings.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman drew criticism from some quarters when she warned that a “hurricane” of mass migration is coming, in her speech to the Conservative party conference earlier this month.
An estimated 76,000 people arrived in the UK to claim asylum in 2022, up from 53,000 in 2021, according to Office for National Statistics data published earlier this year.
But the charity said the 2022 figure makes up less than 10% of the total long-term immigration for that year, which the ONS estimated was around 1.2 million.
In an online survey of 2,000 UK adults last month, carried out by Opinium, 59% overestimated the number of asylum seekers in the UK.
Less than a fifth (18%) of people identified that asylum seekers make up less than 10% of overall migration, while just over a fifth said they did not know the real figure or were unsure what an asylum seeker was.
Someone fleeing their own country for safety in another is an asylum seeker until they are successful in their application, after which they are recognised as a refugee, giving them legal protection.
The polling also found that the majority of those asked (87%) thought the UK should offer refuge to people fleeing conflict and persecution.
Mike Adamson, British Red Cross chief executive, said: “As the UK’s largest provider of refugee services, we see the kindness and support people have for refugees and people seeking asylum every day. Our polling reaffirms this, showing that most of us believe the UK should offer safety to people who are fleeing conflict or persecution.
“Despite this support, conversations around refugees and asylum issues can be polarising and often includes misconceptions.
“That is why we’re launching a new data tool, to help debunk myths and separate fact from fiction. We hope this will empower people and bring a renewed focus on practical solutions that support local communities and the men, women and children in our asylum system.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.