The Socialist 6 September 2003
Teach Blair A Lesson
Asylum seekers: Blunkett's harsh policies ignore reality
HOME SECRETARY David Blunkett has seized on a fall in the number of asylum applications to declare that New Labour's 'get tough' asylum policies are working.
These include stopping all benefits to asylum seekers who do not claim refugee status as soon as they arrive in Britain and refusing all applicants from a 'white list' of 24 countries considered 'safe'.
There was a 32% fall in the number of applications in the first three months of 2003, compared to the previous quarter.
But how much has this to do with New Labour's policies?
The top three countries for asylum applicants to Britain are exactly the same as they were in 2002; Iraq, Somalia and Zimbabwe - all countries which have experienced war, civil unrest and human rights abuses.
These figures back up what previous research has consistently shown - war, conflict and internal repression in asylum seekers' home countries have the biggest impact on applications for asylum.
For the majority of refugees fleeing these countries, changes in benefit rules have no influence on whether or not they seek asylum in Britain. Most would be unlikely to know what benefits are available anyway.
There has been a 75% fall in applications from Sri Lanka.
Is this because Sri Lankans know that Blunkett wants to stop benefit payments to some asylum seekers? Or is it because the situation in Sri Lanka has become less dangerous since Tamil fighters entered into peace negotiations with the government?
Similarly, it doesn't take a genius to work out that the 70% drop in Iraqis claiming asylum has something to do with the fact that Saddam Hussein's brutal regime has gone (although the war has resulted in insecurity, poverty and instability, creating new problems for ordinary Iraqis).
New Labour's policies are a knee-jerk reaction to the vicious anti-asylum propaganda and lies of right-wing newspapers like The Sun.
New Labour wants to divert attention from the real reason why we have an underfunded health service, why teachers are losing their jobs and why there's a shortage of good quality affordable housing; their pro-big business policies put the interests of the fat cats before those of ordinary people.
We need to challenge those policies through a united campaign for more resources for local communities and working-class people.
THE HOME Office's own research earlier this year found that harsh policies supposedly geared towards stopping 'economic migrants', actually end up hurting all refugees.
Because of Blunkett's policies, asylum seekers who have suffered torture and abuse have been forced to sleep on the streets. The 'white list' now includes Bangladesh, a country where thousands face ethnic and religious persecution.
And, since visa requirements were introduced from Zimbabwe in November last year, there has been a dramatic fall in applications for asylum, even though political persecution and human rights abuses by the Mugabe regime continue.
The same research also pointed out that 'get tough' policies inevitably lead to an increase in trafficking and illegal immigration.
People in a desperate situation will look for any way they can to flee violence and persecution, even if it means risking their lives and giving everything they have in the world to unscrupulous people-traffickers.
It's the capitalist profit system which creates war, violence, poverty and instability. As long as it remains in place, people will continue to seek asylum in Britain and elsewhere - whether legally or illegally.
No amount of repressive legislation will halt that.
New Labour wholeheartedly support the capitalist system. They back the selling of arms to brutal dictators and support wars for profit and prestige.
They promote economic and social policies that create inequality and poverty at home and abroad.
All of the mainstream parties (and the fascist BNP) back the profit system. Only socialists fight for an alternative system that meets everybody's needs.
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