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Why We Should Empathize With Asylum Seekers

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Asylum seekers are those, in the main, who are escaping war and/or have stood up to tyranny and injustice from their rulers. They are courageous people that need to be admired, not vilified.

Additionally, they are those who have the resourcefulness to escape their environment, overcoming in many cases unimaginable obstacles to make it to Britain. Given half a chance, they have the drive and wherewithal to make a positive contribution to Britain. Forebears of many of our current entrepreneurs and scientists sought asylum here for a variety of reasons and have enriched our society.

Applicants who do not qualify for refugee status under the 1951 UN convention on refugees are guilty of no more than being economic migrants trying to improve their future chances and that of their families. And let us be honest, how many of us would not do the same if we found ourselves under similar circumstances. Sometimes, those whose asylum applications are rejected have to be forcefully removed.

This removal, however, needs to be tempered with compassion and a measure of dignity afforded to those unfortunate enough to be born in countries where oppression, tyranny and injustice are endemic.

The claims of abuse, and the use of excessive force by staff employed by private company contractors in deporting those whose applications have been unsuccessful, show a total lack of empathy with their plight. This is not surprising given the negative reporting in the popular press.

This lack of empathy could perhaps be overcome if the companies hired by the government to carry out the deportations included, as part of their staff training, a number of case studies detailing actual stories of why people seek asylum in Britain, in many cases leaving family members behind.

It is estimated that there are around 15 and a half million refugees worldwide, not including those internally displaced. About 2.5 million of those are Iraqis, escaping the hell created by the catastrophic illegal war on Iraq.

We are privileged to be living in Britain, where there are principled journalists, organizations and lawyers to ensure the state uses its power proportionately and fairly. Most of those seeking refuge in Britain come from countries where state power knows no bounds. Their lives, in many cases, are further blighted by poverty, war and terrorism. Empathizing and showing them some respect when they are being deported is the least we can do.