Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/289/20236
Aslum Seekers: Blunkett's Harsh Laws Illegal
THE HIGH Court has ruled that Blunkett's latest harsh attack on asylum seekers is illegal. The judge hearing the case commented: "Parliament can surely not have intended that genuine refugees should be faced with the bleak alternative of returning to persecution or of destitution".
In reality that's exactly what parliament intended. The rules said that anyone who didn't claim asylum as soon as practicable (with no definition of what exactly that meant) after entering the country, would receive no benefits (with some exceptions, although not pregnant women).
The government itself admitted that this could make 700 people a week destitute.
New Labour introduced the rules to pander to media hysteria about asylum seekers. They were based on the false idea that anyone who delays application cannot be a 'genuine' refugee. In fact, 65% of successful asylum applications apply 'in country' - more than twice as many as those who apply immediately at ports.
None of the six refugees who were the 'test cases' for this ruling had any idea about asylum procedure in Britain. Many refugees arriving here, traumatised, maybe not speaking English, often want to get advice from someone they can trust before applying for asylum.
One Angolan man who had found his father shot dead and whose mother and sister had been repeatedly raped, failed to qualify for benefits because he didn't claim asylum when arriving at the airport. Instead he waited until later that same day! As a result he had to sleep rough.
An Iraqi refugee who was denied support was forced to sleep in a telephone box "cold, hungry and scared". Other cases included a 16 -year-old girl from Ethiopia and a woman who had been repeatedly raped and beaten in Rwanda.
Yet, despite these horror stories Blunkett said: "We will seek to overthrow it. We will continue to operate a policy which we think is perfectly reasonable and fair".
In their desperation to gain support, to be 'seen to be doing something about asylum' and to divert attention from their disastrous policies on war with Iraq, public services etc, Blunkett and New Labour are prepared to pursue a policy that, while doing nothing to reduce the number of people claiming asylum in Britain, will subject hundreds of already traumatised refugees to starvation, homelessness and terrible hardship.
In The Socialist 28 February 2003: