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The public debate concerning the refugees is too often driven by prejudice, fictions and myths.

“Shouldn’t we take care of our own first?”, “Why do these people have cell phones and Nike shoes?”, “What is the difference between a migrant, an asylum seeker and a refugee?”

These questions should be answered with calm and facts. This is why Welcome Refugees Colchester organises events called “Refugees: Facts and Fictions” where everyone can ask any question concerning refugees and be answered with facts.

You can find below some of the questions which have been asked during these events and how they were answered.

♦ What is the difference between a migrant, an asylum seeker and a refugee?

A migrant is a person who makes a conscious choice to leave their country to seek a better life elsewhere.

An asylum seeker is a person who has applied for asylum.

This person becomes a refugee once his/her application has been successful.

♦ How many people are recognised as refugees in the UK?

According to the UN, the number of refugees in the UK at the end of 2014 was less than 0,25% of the British population (that is less than 118 000 refugees). This is nothing compared to Turkey (hosting 1,6 million refugees), Pakistan (hosting 1,5 million) or Germany (which might expect more than 1 million refugees by the end of the year).

♦ Government Policy has been to provide funds for refugee camps near Syria. Why isn’t this policy working?

There are 4,1 Syrians who have fled their homes. 1.5 million in Lebanon (the total Lebanese population is about 4.5 million); 700,000 in Jordan (total population 6.3 million); 1.7 million in Turkey; 250,000 in Iraq and 120,000 in Egypt. Most of these live in camps run by the UN. 10% of Syrians fleeing conflict have applied for asylum in Europe.

The Government are the second largest bilateral donor to the Syrian Refugee crisis. The largest single country destination for the funds was Syria itself (£315 million spent). The other two big destinations were Lebanon, where £146 million has been spent, and Jordan, where £134 million has been spent. However the enormous and continuous threat to human life has meant that the camps are not able to process people back to their homes. Nobody wants their family to grow up in a camp. And some do not feel safe in the camps. With escalation of air strikes there is little chance that people will be able to go home in the near future. 12.2 million Syrians need help within the country. This number will grow as airstrikes further damage infrastructure. It’s not that the camps aren’t working. It is that this is an unprecedented event and there are  insufficient funds and countries able to house the camps.