In line with Wigan Council’s aims to promote better public understanding of asylum seekers and refugees, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions to highlight the facts around asylum seekers.
We hope these key questions and answers help you to understand who asylum seekers are, why and where they are placed in the borough, as well as what their impact can be.
What is an asylum seeker?
An asylum seeker is a person who has left their country of origin and formally applied for asylum in another country but whose application has not yet been concluded. A person officially becomes refugee when they have their claim for asylum accepted by the government.
Where do asylum seekers come from?
Asylum seekers come from all around the world and are often from countries affected most severely by war and political instability.
What do asylum seekers live on? Is it costing us in local taxes?
Wigan Council does not pay any financial support to asylum seekers. All support comes from central government.
Almost all asylum seekers are not allowed to work and are forced to rely on state support – this can mean living on as little as £5 a day.
According to research carried out by the Refugee Council, most asylum seekers do not know about welfare benefits before they arrive and have no expectation that they would receive financial support.
Can asylum seekers work?
Asylum seekers are not allowed to work and behind the scenes, Wigan Council works closely to support government agencies to identify and prevent illegal working.
Since 2002, only those with full refugee status, Humanitarian Protection or Discretionary Leave to Remain have been allowed to enter employment.
What positive benefits does this country get from immigration?
Refugees make a huge contribution to the UK once they can access work and contribute through taxes, job creation and supporting the local economy through new businesses. Asylum-seeking children contribute very positively to schools across the country. This in turn enables more successful integration of families into local communities.
Has Wigan Borough been specially selected to host asylum seekers?
Wigan Borough has hosted asylum seekers since 2000. And, like all areas in the country, the borough should play a fair and balanced role in resettling asylum seekers/refugees within the community and in liaison with other councils in the area.
How is it decided where asylum seekers live in the borough?
The Home Office (part of central government) has a statutory duty to provide accommodation for those seeking asylum.
On some occasions, the Home Office arranges with private hotel operators to use their sites as emergency accommodation for those seeking asylum.
Where asylum seekers are allocated is a decision taken by the Home Office and central government. Wigan Council has no control over this.
One location in the borough, The Britannia Hotel in Standish, has been used for this purpose for several years. Another, Kilhey Court, also in Standish, is beginning preparations to provide similar accommodation.
What powers does the council have to raise its concerns about the use of hotels by Serco?
Wigan Council has no control over the use of hotels or numbers, nor does the council provide any financial assistance to the housing of asylum seekers.
We have had discussions with Serco and the Home Office to make clear our concern about the use of hotels to temporarily host asylum seekers and to press for a date when it will end.
At a Greater Manchester and North West level, Serco and the Home Office are being pressed for the hotel situation to be resolved.
Has the presence of asylum seekers led to an increase in crime in Standish?
The vast majority of asylum seekers are law-abiding and are much more likely to be the victims of crime rather than perpetrators.
People who have committed serious crimes are excluded from protection under the UN Convention on Refugees. States can also expel people who they regard as a threat to national security.
Do asylum seekers get beneficial treatment for healthcare?
Asylum seekers have the same rights as any UK citizen to access health care and children's education. Migrants, including refugees, make an enormous contribution to the NHS, which relies heavily on foreign labour.
People who are seeking asylum have often been through very traumatic and challenging times, meaning that they have significant physical and mental health needs.
They may also have come from countries that do not have national health services, or public health services, like ours, which means they may not be up-to-date with the required vaccinations, etc. to keep them and local residents safe.
It is essential, and required under Home Office guidance, that people seeking asylum are provided with health services to support with these things.
In Wigan Borough, this is a specialist service which is funded and managed completely separately. It does not take any services away from local residents.