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Myths about migration

The health care worker can challenge commonly held misconceptions about refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

Common myths about migration

There are many myths about migration and asylum - click these common ones to read the facts.

Myths in more detail

Asylum seekers are health tourists coming to the UK to get free NHS treatment

NHS LogoFact: Asylum seekers come to the UK to seek refuge, fleeing the most unimaginable torture and persecution. Some will require medical and psychotherapeutic help - but this is as a result of their experiences not a reason for coming here.

There is no evidence that people come to the UK because of their health or HIV status, and clinicians and charities report that people they see are unaware of their status until they are diagnosed.


The top 10 countries of origin in 2019 (the last accurate figures issued by the UN) for the asylum applications in the UK were:

 Albania: 6,787
 Iraq: 5,338
 Iran: 4,845
 Pakistan: 3,910
 Afghanistan: 2,890
 Viet Nam: 2,494
 Bangladesh: 2,329
 India: 2,248
 Nigeria: 2,237
 China: 1,689

These are all countries with existing and ongoing civil strife, war or oppression.


Pie chart showing proportion of asylum decisions in 2011


The UK is not a 'soft touch'

The asylum decisions taken in the first quarter of 2019 show that:

  • 46 per cent of initial decisions were unsuccessful
  • 49 per cent of initial decisions were to grant asylum
  • 5 per cent of initial decisions were to grant Humanitarian Protection (HP) or Discretionary Leave

Many refusals go to appeal and recent statistics show that over two thirds of appeals are successful.

How to myth bust


  • Find out what really happens in foreign countries and the facts about numbers of people and where they come from.
  • Look out for articles and news headlines - cut them and keep them - research the background - check the facts!
  • Don’t forward or repeat malicious emails or texts, check out the facts first!

Case study: The Roma Asda text and email myth

Asda supermarket"Last night at Asda, Manchester, a little girl of three went missing. Asda’s policy is to lock all the doors if this happens. The girl was found in the toilet with two Romanian women, one was shaving her head and the other was putting her in boy’s clothes. The information was given to me by an Asda employee - please be extra careful when you are out and about, pass this on to anyone with young children..."

Concerned parents, social workers and health staff have been duped and circulated this email that plays on stereotypes and fears.

A simple check on the Asda website revealed that: “it is a hoax story that has appeared regularly in a variety of guises, both in the UK and the US over the last ten years... it’s as untrue today as it has ever been.”

(your.asda.com - June 2011)

Keep up to date - use these sites:

Refugee Council
The Refugee Council is the largest organisation in the UK working with asylum seekers and refugees. They not only give direct help and support, but also work with asylum seekers and refugees to ensure their needs and concerns are addressed.

Refugee Action
Refugee Action works to: provide high quality reception, advice and information to refugees and asylum seekers; promote the development of refugee communities; improve access to employment and mainstream services, and enhance opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers; raise awareness, influence policy and campaign for refugee rights.


In this unit we have identified several of the common re-occurring myths about migrants and refugees.

  • Myths will recirculate - in many different forms - it is up to you as a health care worker to ensure that these myths about migration do not affect how your patients are perceived and treated in your workplace.
  • Check your Equal Opportunities policy and local procedures for how to deal with discrimination in the workplace.