Bibby Stockholm barge docked in Falmouth. Photo: Ashley Smith/CC
Bibby Stockholm barge docked in Falmouth. Photo: Ashley Smith/CC

Fight division – jobs and homes for all

Amanda, West Midlands-based ESOL teacher

Once again, the plight of asylum seekers has been turned into a game of political football, as the Tories propose to move them out of hotels and into barges. As we go to press, the Tories plan for the first 500 asylum seekers to be packed onto the Bibby Stockholm, a barge built to house less than half that number of people. This is a bid to cut costs and deter migrants supposedly lured to the UK by ‘luxurious accommodation’.

These measures will likely go ahead, despite serious fire concerns raised by the Fire Brigades Union, the assistant general secretary describing the barge as “a potential deathtrap”. Migrants living in this confined space could also lead to widespread infection if disease breaks out, according to the government’s own internal documents. To make matters worse, there is a worrying presence of far-right groups, who have threatened asylum seekers, in the area around the Bibby Stockholm barge.

Disappointingly, Labour has said that it would continue to use the barges to house asylum seekers temporarily once in power. Yet again showing in practice they are like Tories with red ties on.

Fight scapegoating

This is not the first time that immigrants have been scapegoated as a cost to the taxpayer and a strain on ever-dwindling resources. The divisive rhetoric attempts to distract the public’s attention from those at the top who really cost us the most – the politicians, both Labour and Tory, who have cut public services to the bone for over a decade and lined the pockets of their rich mates.

Some struggling workers may buy into the lie that immigrants are worsening their situation by scrabbling for the same piece of the pie when there is barely enough to go around. In reality, there is more than enough wealth in the hands of the richest for everyone to have a secure job, access to decent public services and a roof over their head.

Wherever we come from, we are all exploited by the capitalist class. Asylum seekers being given the right to work and to join a union, fighting in solidarity with fellow workers, would give enormous strength to the fight for better pay and conditions for all. But whatever gains we win will only be taken back by the capitalists if we do not also fight for the socialist transformation of society, seize the vast wealth of the 1% to improve society, and renationalise public services under democratic workers’ control.