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Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Commissioner for Human Rights of The Council of Europe

Increasingly restrictive asylum policies are being harmonized all over Europe in an effort to deter those fleeing political persecution from reaching sanctuary; the 'Fortress Europe' (Gordon 1989) is fortified everyday. Despite conflicts devastating the lives of many people in the South, the wealthy and stable democratic countries of the North fence themselves off from the 'wretched of the Earth' in what Anthony H. Richmond (1994) calls 'Global Apartheid'. In the dominant anti-refugee discourse it is a host society that is protected from refugees whilst protection is being denied to political exiles. Refugees are represented as a threat to national security, welfare system, social cohesion and cultural purity. Popular tabloid media speak of 'masses' and 'floods' of 'Euro-scroungers' and 'illegal asylum seekers' invading British shores. The former is an expression of both prejudice and ignorance as

'Both pure refugees and purely economic migrants are ideal constructs rarely found in real life; many among those who routinely meet the refugee definition are clearly fleeing both political oppression and economic dislocation' (Papademitriou cited in Marfleet 2006: 12).

'Good practice in service provision to refugees and asylum seekers includes effective partnership between statutory and voluntary sectors and a holistic view of individual needs, which takes into account practical, legal and social issues' (SCIE 2006: 3).

Services for asylum seekers need to be accessible (e.g. use free phone number, employ translators); central (in a form of one-stop shop); specialist (meeting needs based on ethnicity and gender); appropriate (culturally and linguistically) and safe (particularly for women and children). Both advocacy and practical needs should be catered for: social workers need to call for breaking the link between entitlement and immigration status. The principles of social justice and human rights cannot be abandoned in the name of restrictive asylum policy; social care providers have an obligation to reclaim asylum seekers' humanity. 

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