Memorandum by Mr Alex Yuen
THE CHINESE ASYLUM-SEEKER SYNDROME
According to Home Office Statistics 108,155
applications for asylum were received between 1996 and 1998 while
only 5,190 failed asylum-seekers were "removed or had voluntarily
departed", less than 5 per cent of the number of applicants
over the same period.
Of the 347,927 applications received from 1991
to 1999 only 24,715 or 7.1 per cent had been granted asylum, the
majority of failed asylum-seekers are, presumably, "allowed"
to remain in the country and work illegally.
While the Government recognises the severe shortages
of skilled workers in some sectors and actively facilitates the
recruitment of foreign workers in such fields, it has overlooked
other sectors and closed the door to the "unskilled".
Hospitals are not only short of doctors and nurses, they are also
short of care assistants, porters and cleaners.
Claiming asylum is the only sure way of entry
under current immigration rules. The high number of bogus asylum-seekers
in the country is the result of the Government's delay in addressing
the nation's need for foreign workers all along the skill scale.
No legislation can prevent someone from wanting
to come to the UK for a better life. Tougher immigration control
will force would-be migrants to take greater risks and enrich
the facilitators even more. Economic migrants have to pay a high
price to come for work, by establishing official channels to recruit
foreign workers to fill all such vacancies the flow of illegal
migration will regulate itself and abate.
There is a severe shortage of labour in the UK Chinese
food industry. Earnings in China are one twentieth of those in
the UK. Chinese immigration trafficking is the result of the Government's
refusal to admit a controlled flow of legal immigration. Economic
migrants are forced to become asylum-seekers.
Chinese economic migrant enters the UK and applies
for asylum, he is given temporary admission. His application for
asylum is refused, he appeals. His appeal is rejected, he is then
left free to live and work in the UK.
The Six-Month Rule
Under immigration rules an asylum-seeker is
not permitted to work for the first six months. A Chinese migrant
needs to work to repay his huge debts. Since the six-month rule
is not being effectively enforced, it encourages the migrant to
break the law and costs the Treasury tax revenue in the process.
Anyone can secure entry into the UK by claiming
asylum. Many bogus asylum-seekers supply false personal details
which make repatriation difficult. Detention is costly, especially
in humanitarian and political terms. If deportation is ruled out,
there is nothing the Government can do to remove the failed asylum-seeker.
The recent increase in enforcement activities
is counter-productive. It creates a climate of fear and drives
failed asylum-seekers underground. The One-Stop Notice acts as
a great disincentive to registration since new entrants fear detention
that could follow the end of the application process which has
recently been accelerated. Application for asylum is becoming
a last resort, an escape from arrest. Another effect is that new
applicants now adopt a completely false identity which makes repatriation
even more difficult.
In 1995, 2,625 applications were received from
Chinese asylum-seekers, only five were granted asylum. Of 9,600
applications received between 1991 and 1999 only 285 of the failed
asylum-seekers or less than 3 per cent had been removed. Since
the authorities cannot remove failed asylum-seekers in any case,
it is a mockery to waste time and money in processing applications
and hearing appeals which they know are fictitious. Detention
or deportation of one migrant only creates a vacancy for another
and creates more work for the Authorities and more business for
A Chinese Snakehead is the head of a smuggling
ring, part of a Triad. A Triad is an underworld gang whose activities
are wide and varied, they include loansharking, illegal gaming,
prostitution, extortion and smuggling. Their organisation is nationwide,
their influence reaches high places in government. Chinese officials
are corrupt, especially local officials who collude with the Triads
to extort from the common people. Snakeheads are active also in
London and other cities in the world.
There is no meaningful register for illegal
migrants in the UK since many are deterred by fear from registering
while others are driven to disappear. Processing bogus applications
and enforcement activities are expensive yet failed asylum-seekers
cannot be deported. They become a political embarrassment and
cannot be regulated since they can disappear at any time. Illegal
migrants are left free to live and work in the country, but the
Government is deprived of tax revenues since those without papers,
and their employers, cannot pay taxes.
The Chinese Job Market
The thriving Chinese food market is desperately
short of labour. Working conditions are harsh, wages low. There
is an additional language barrier for although some employers
do speak English, very few kitchen staff do. A six-day, 72-hour
week is normal, wages are as low as £120 per week plus food
and accommodation. Few British nationals are qualified to work
in a Chinese kitchen and perhaps less are likely to entertain
such work. Under these conditions it is almost impossible to fill
the vacancies from within. If all illegal Chinese workers were
repatriated the Chinese food industry would collapse overnight.
Government welcomes foreign doctors, nurses,
teachers, computer personnel and other workers including Indian
chefs to come to work in the UK. Why should it not also welcome
Chinese catering workers?
The Chinese Asylum-Seeker
With few exceptions all Chinese asylum-seekers
are economic migrants. They come to the UK to work and earn money.
A Chinese migrant does not speak English. He does not affect the
local job market since he can work only within the Chinese communities.
The cost in coming to the UK is so high that it would take a migrant
up to five years to repay his debts. Interest alone can accrue
at the rate of around 4,000 RMB (£330) per month. A would-be
migrant cannot afford to gamble with his life on the off chance
that he might find work. If there is no demand for Chinese workers
he will not come.
Cost of Entry
The current cost in coming to the UK is in excess
of 200,000 RMB (£16,500), equivalent to at least 30 years'
savings in China for an average migrant. Those who cannot raise
the money from relatives and friends have to borrow from loansharks
or Snakeheads in which case a guarantor is involved. Interest
is currently 2 to 2.5 per cent per month compound. Punishment
for non-repayment is severe, beatings and maiming are common.
Human Rights Implications
Because of a migrant's genuine fear for his
safety and that of his family should he be returned to China before
his debts are repaid, he might well qualify for protection under
the Human Rights Act.
The inflow of Chinese migrants to the UK is
directly related to the availability of work. By creating an official
channel in China to fill job vacancies, illegal immigration trafficking
will reduce itself to an insignificant level.
The majority of illegal migrants are already
in work, an amnesty would regularise their status. Special leave
can be granted on compassionate grounds or alternatively work
permits can be issued in exchange for verified personal details
in which case permit-holders can be repatriated at the end of
To dispose of bogus applications and save the
nation a lot of time and money, or even as a holding operation,
asylum-seekers should be encouraged to apply for protection under
Article 3 of the Human Rights Act. Human Rights consideration
would more than provide a way out of the impasse, by granting
protection the Government can regulate the Chinese asylum-seeker
syndrome under the Act Those without papers will want to register,
increased tax revenue is a bonus.
The focus of attention should shift from the
newly-arrived to the disappeared. Threat of detention to new-arrivals
should be removed and seen to be removed. A round-up and detention
of those without papers will deter others from breaking the rules.
In the case of Chinese migrants rounding-up is easy, a visit to
the local Chinese restaurant or take-away will produce catches
Anyone who employs an illegal worker is liable
to a heavy fine. Redundant officials can be redirected to ensure
that the law is observed. When employers do not offer work to
non-permit holders, the incentive for economic migrants to come
to the UK is substantially reduced.