UK Proud To Protect Young Refugees

New research published today shows two thirds of people living in Britain are proud the UK provides a safe haven for refugee children fleeing persecution, but there remains widespread confusion around the issue of asylum, with many people grossly exaggerating the numbers of asylum seekers residing in the UK.

The research revealed 18% of respondents believed the UK hosts more than half of the world's asylum seekers in fact the figure is less than 3% of the 9.9 million refugees in the world (about 302,000), according to UNHCR statistics.[1]

The ICM poll was commissioned by the British Red Cross to explore people's perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers in the run-up to Refugee Week 2008, which this year takes places from the 16-22 June.

In 2006, 3, 245 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children aged 17 or under claimed asylum in the UK, with the majority of them coming from Afghanistan (30%), Iran (10%), Eritrea (10%) and Somalia (8%).[2] Reasons included the death of their parents, detention and torture, forced recruitment as child soldiers, persecution due to ethnic group, or the political activities of their family.

The Red Cross supports refugees and unaccompanied asylum seeking children to adjust to life in a new country, make friends and access essential services such as health care and education. The Red Cross can even put young people back in touch with lost family members through the international tracing and messaging service.

Charles (17), originally from Cameroon, sought refuge in the UK just over a year ago. He said: "My mum and dad were both killed because of their involvement in politics. I went to live with my uncle, but our lawyer told me it was no longer safe to stay". Alone in Manchester, he found out about a Red Cross peer education project, which helped him make friends and provided training in peer befriending and first aid. Charles now teaches first aid to other young people and is studying law at City College Manchester.

To mark Refugee Week 2008, the British Red Cross is launching a UK-wide social networking campaign supported by actor Dougray Scott. The campaign will give young refugees and asylum seekers like Charles a platform to tell their story through video diaries, which will be showcased through sites such as Facebook, Bebo and YouTube, as well as the British Red Cross website

Dougray Scott explains: "Young people including children who may have arrived in Britain alone and without their family can be particularly vulnerable. Some have experienced violence and trauma and need extra support. The Red Cross helps them access essential services and find their way around."

British Red Cross staff and volunteers throughout the UK will be taking part in Refugee Week by holding events and activities, from comedy nights to workshops in schools.

Nick Scott-Flynn, head of British Red Cross refugee services, said: "The Red Cross Movement protects people fleeing conflict throughout the world and that includes those who arrive in the UK. Refugees make an enormous contribution to the UK, socially, culturally and economically, and Refugee Week is a chance to celebrate that fact."

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