Saturday, 14 December 2013

Asylum Seekers and Facebook - Where Does the Truth Lie?

I use facebook.  I use it a lot.  Some people would tell you that I use it too much!  And I tend to get annoyed by hoaxes and scams.  They crop up regularly - some of them crop up over and over again.  But I get most annoyed when those posts that unfairly demonise a group of people or individual people - the posts that began somewhere as a malicious lie not just a silly joke. There are politicians and organisations I don't particularly like and rarely agree with - but I've sprung to their defence when I've seen lies told about them, intentionally or otherwise.  Because of course most hoaxes and scams are passed on by well intentioned, pretty decent people. 

Here's something that I see variations of posted on facebook quite regularly.  There's a good chance that if you use facebook then you've seen it too.  A 30 second look on Google brings up several articles that show how wrong it is.  But people tell me they don't know how to do that - yes, there really are regular computer users who claim that Google is a complete mystery.  And other people tell me they haven't got the time to do that - which only shows that they would prefer to risk spreading lies, demonising other human beings, rather than spent 30 seconds giving them the benefit of the doubt.  I truly think the "no time" excuse is a symptom either of evil or of a belief in the basic rotten nature of humanity.

And this particular post, one I've seen quite a few times in different forms, makes me very, very cross:

I don't personally know any asylum seekers at this time.  We had an asylum seeker and his family at church for quite a while and they went through great suffering until they were granted asylum and could finally start to create a life here.  But I know people who are involved in working with asylum seekers and refugees - through an aid centre for them (which received my entire wardrobe of clothes in the last few months - new outward gender means new clothes for me) and through various groups run for them.

From those people I hear horror stories - families living in one room, without furniture, without extra clothes, with only one cup between them.  Asylum seekers who know they face life imprisonment or death if they are sent home, so live in great fear each day.  They may have the "wrong" race, religion, politics, sexuality or whatever else to be free in their nation of origin.  They are usually innocent of anything we'd call a criminal offence under our own comparatively very freedom loving laws.

There is a group of LGBT asylum seekers in this city who would face terrible punishment if sent back, because of their sexuality or gender - because of that fear and because of prejudice among others from their nation they cannot be openly gay, or lesbian or seek help as transgender.  Yet in order to stay the kind British government wants to force them to "prove" their sexuality or gender.

But tonight (at the time of typing - not of posting this) I saw the above set of lies on facebook.  Again.  Yet again.  And I just had to respond.

It'll do little good I suspect. (edit - I removed my post the following morning)  If someone wants to believe the worst about people and situations then they'll still believe the worst no matter how much light or truth is passed their way.  So I responded, and the likelihood is that someone will not like my response much - I'm afraid it's not 100% the epitome of calm diplomacy but does improve after the 'baloney'!

I think it's a total disgrace that such complete and utter baloney keeps getting posted on facebook and elsewhere - especially when it's by people who know about the work of refugee centres and who have seen what poverty asylum seekers generally have to live in while often in desperate fear for their lives if refugee status is not granted.

But go ahead, scapegoat them.  They can't fight back.

An "illegal" immigrant gets nothing.  The clue is in the word "illegal".

A single asylum seeker can receive £36.62 a week.  That's under £2,000 a year to live on. 

A roof is provided - usually horrible as the contract goes to the lowest possible bidder and this can change at any time, without warning.  Recently some asylum seekers in Newcastle had to move to Teeside - with less than one hour's notice.

Under £2,000 a year doesn't leave a lot of spare cash and asylum seekers have to report in regularly.  In Shields.  So they walk, very regularly, from Newcastle to Shields and back in order to receive their £36 because they can't afford a bus.

But hey, that's only a 17 mile round trip and I'm sure we'd all be happy to walk that in the middle of winter in order to receive £36 to pay for our food, fuel, clothes, and anything else we might need to survive.

We wouldn't be allowed any other money - asylum seekers aren't allowed to seek work unless refugee status is granted.

If the asylum seeker is eventually granted refugee status he/she is entitled to the same benefits as anyone else.  Anyone who thinks that's wrong is wishing these people a quick trip back to their nation of origin where imprisonment or sometimes death awaits - for their politics, race, sexuality, religion.

They are scared, have run for their lives.  They arrive in Britain.  And people on facebook listen to lies and just piss all over them.

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