67% of Britons sympathetic to refugees coming to UK

Refugee Council’s survey reveals helping others is part of the British DNA 03 May 2011: On the 60th anniversary of the UN Convention for Refugees, a new survey reveals that British people remain committed to the values Britain fought for in World War II, with an overwhelming majority (82%) believing that protecting the most vulnerable is a core British value.

Britons remain proud of their heritage and support Britain’s role in offering protection to refugees: two out of three (67%) are sympathetic to those fleeing persecution to seek protection in the UK.

In response to the horrific atrocities of World War II, British lawyers played a key role in drafting the 1951 UN Convention for Refugees to protect people whose lives were at risk in their own countries. The findings of the survey for the Refugee Council carried out by Opinium Research, show that six out of ten (59%) Britons believe that the UN Convention is just as relevant or more relevant for protecting people fleeing conflict today than it was in 1951.

Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said: “British soldiers gave up their lives in World War II fighting to build a better world and protect others from persecution. It is a legacy that all British people should be proud of, and should serve to remind us that Britain still has an important role to play in offering safety to those forced to flee their homes to escape violence, torture and war in countries around the world today.

“How encouraging that, 60 years after the UN Convention for Refugees was created so many people in Britain remain sympathetic to refugees coming here, and that the majority believe protecting the most vulnerable is an intrinsic part of being British.”

The new research also reveals that there is significant misunderstanding around what a refugee is, with many confusing them with economic migrants from Poland and Eastern Europe. Three quarters of Britons also wildly overestimate the small number of refugees granted asylum in the UK. In 2009, 4,175 individuals were granted refugee status, yet 44% of Britons believe it was 100,000 or more.


• Most Britons (67%) are sympathetic to refugees coming to Britain

• 74% of women were sympathetic, compared to 61% men.

• 84% of Britons are proud to be British. Pride was highest amongst those aged 70 years or over (93%).

• 82% of respondents with an opinion agreed with the statement that ‘protecting the most vulnerable is a core British value’.

• 49% stated they are proud of Britain’s role in drafting the Convention, with 36% being indifferent and 3% stating they are ashamed.

• 12% believe the Convention on Refugees is more relevant today than it was in 1951, and 47% stating it is just as needed.

• 44% of respondents believe that 100,000 or more refugees were accepted to stay in the UK in 2009.

Six children detained in March


Move to set up refuge for failed asylum seekers runs into controversy