Tories’ ludicrous refugee detention plans
Fight for jobs and homes for all – defend the right to asylum
Steve Score, Socialist Party national committee
It would be absolutely ludicrous, if it wasn’t so serious, for the victims of war, dictatorship, and torture who flee to this country seeking asylum.
The Tory government has discussed measures to transfer asylum seekers to processing centres in various offshore destinations – including Moldova, Morocco, or even as far as Papua New Guinea or Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, press leaks have shown.
The government discussed the possibility of putting asylum seekers on oil rigs or using old ferries as prison ships. Most ridiculous of all was the proposal to use wave machines to stop small boats of potential refugees arriving over the Channel!
These discussions are prompted by the nearly 7,000 asylum seekers who have risked death on unsafe boats to get to the UK this year. This is an increase – because, as a result of Covid-19, it is now even more difficult to get here by safer routes. They are still driven by desperation to escape persecution and war at home.
But there has been no increase in the overall number of applications for asylum – 32,400 in the year to June – the same as last year, and less than in 2016. Around half have had their initial applications accepted to obtain refugee status.
These are tiny numbers in a country with a population of 67 million. They are also far fewer than other countries such as France and Germany. In fact, the vast majority of displaced people never get to Europe and instead remain in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Meanwhile, the richest thousand people in Britain are worth around three-quarters of a trillion pounds. There is no need for anyone to live in poverty – we just need to take the wealth off the super-rich.
The government is attempting to follow the draconian and inhumane Australian system of sending asylum seekers to Pacific islands.
But the Australian government deliberately intercepts boats in international waters in order to avoid the legal and human rights obligations that come when asylum seekers arrive in your country. The UK government would have to change the law to remove those rights in order to transfer people legally.
The Tories are attempting to shore up their low poll ratings and divert attention away from their catastrophic handling of coronavirus. They are exploiting the misery of asylum seekers to find scapegoats for the cuts in services and living standards resulting from their policies and from the capitalist system.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said in her Tory conference speech, that there would be new laws – to deny asylum to those who use “illegal” routes into the UK, and to stop “endless legal claims” from asylum seekers.
Rather than allowing more safe and legal routes to get here, or having a genuinely fair appeals system, the Tories prefer the approach of ‘send them anywhere but here’. As it is, many have to wait years for appeals to be heard, often in appalling living conditions, with £5.39 a day to live on.
The situation that faces millions of refugees worldwide was highlighted recently by the fire on the Greek island of Lesbos. 13,000 were left without shelter when fire devastated a refugee camp that was crammed with more than four times the number it was meant to accommodate, in terrible conditions.
Following the fire, unlike some other European governments, the Tories refused to take any of these refugees – even children.
Divide and rule
Tory divide-and-rule attempts must be opposed and the right to asylum fought for. Detention centres should be closed and deportation ended. All workers, including asylum seekers, should have the right to decent housing conditions, the right to work, and enough to live on.
Fighting together is the only way to win decent living standards for all. How can the Tories argue that the money isn’t there when they have found billions to defend the profit system during the pandemic?
The long delays in processing applications should be ended. We demand that elected committees of working-class people, including from the trade unions and migrants’ organisations, have the right to review asylum cases – and the allocation of resources to ensure that local services are adequately funded.
Past and present UK governments bear their own part in the responsibility of worldwide capitalism for imperialist wars, civil war and poverty, which trigger huge displacements of population. Solving these problems means fighting for socialism here and internationally, so the vast resources of the world can be used to provide for the needs of everyone.