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Refugees: time to look beyond the label

15 June 2009

To mark Refugee Week (15-21 June), the Red Cross has launched a bold new campaign asking people to look beyond the stereotypical ‘refugee’ label and highlighting the positive contribution many refugees make in the UK.

Eric, refugee from Rwanda - Refugee Week 2009© Info

In recent years those seeking refuge in the UK have often had a poor press – and that’s why the Red Cross’ Look beyond the label online campaign is seeking to redress the balance.

The campaign includes an online video – introduced by Hollywood actor Dougray Scott – featuring three moving accounts by refugees about both their troubled pasts and hopes for the future.  As one of those featured in the video, Ticha Kanjanda – who is training to be a social care worker – puts it: “I’m not a liability. I want to be an asset to this society.”

The video also features Aldijana Becirevic from Bosnia and Eric Nkundunumbano from Rwanda, who were both compelled to leave their home countries fearing for their lives.

Change your status

You can support the Red Cross’ campaign – and help spread the anti-discrimination message – by changing your own online status on Facebook, MSN, Bebo, Yahoo or Twitter, as well as through generic emails and blogs. It only takes a moment – simply download the relevant status pack and follow the instructions.

Underlining the need for the campaign, a new ICM survey conducted by the British Red Cross shows that a vast majority of the British public significantly overestimates how many people apply for asylum in the UK each year.

Fascinating results

Almost a quarter of those polled thought that more than 100,000 people apply for asylum each year, which is around four times the actual number of applications – 25,670 – submitted in 2008. Only five per cent of those surveyed correctly identified that between 20,000 and 30,000 people apply for UK asylum each year.

According to Nick Scott-Flynn, head of British Red Cross refugee services: “The survey results are fascinating because they show there’s a clear gap between perception and reality. The number of refugees coming to the UK is far lower than the vast majority of people think.”

Skilled and able

The survey also found that most people think refugees are largely low-skilled workers in their country of origin rather than professionals, when in fact the opposite is true.

Nick added: “From our work with refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, we know that people are skilled and want to contribute to society. We work with teachers, lawyers, doctors and business people who have all been forced to seek sanctuary here.”

Listen to our refugee podcast

Visit the Look beyond the label website

Find out more about refugee week events in the UK

Visit the Refugee Week 2009 website

Find out about our refugee services