The Tory government in the UK under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman has earned notoriety within a short span of time for its inhumane policies against refugees and asylum seekers.
The latest salvo against refugees is a plan to house asylum seekers in barges in ports in the country. The proposal has invoked widespread protests from human rights groups and progressive organizations.
On Monday, June 5, at a press conference in Dover, Kent, Sunak defended his scheme to house asylum seekers in a barge in Portland, Dorset. He also announced plans to use two more barges for 1,000 asylum seekers and boasted the success of his deterrence policies against refugees arriving in the UK by small boats through the English Channel, as shown by the relative decline in numbers this year. Groups such as the Refugee Council, Amnesty International, Red Cross, Stand Up to Racism, the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), and others, have slammed the government’s policies against refugees.
The attacks on refugees comes amid a protracted economic crisis in the UK which has seen an increase in levels of poverty and in the cost of living due to high inflation and the energy crunch. The government has been trying to place the onus of the crisis entirely on the ongoing war in Ukraine and has also said that refugees are a major factor contributing to the crisis in the country. Pro-government mainstream media has criticized the huge expense incurred by the state to pursue welfare policies for workers and to accommodate immigrants and refugees.
However, according to critics, the Tory government’s measures over the past two years to target refugees are only a means to cover up the real issues facing the country. The UK has a dysfunctional asylum processing system with reports stating that “a total of 172,758 people were waiting for an initial decision on asylum applications at the end of March, up 57% from a year earlier and the highest figure since comparable records began in 2010, according to Home Office figures.”
Sunak’s policy on refugees has been dubbed as ‘stop the boat’—aimed at stopping the transit of migrants to the UK through the English Channel. In March 2023, Braverman introduced the “Illegal Migration Bill’ in the parliament to clamp down on the small boat refugee crossings to the UK through the English Channel. The bill has completed its proceedings in the House of Commons and is at the Committee Stage in the House of Lords.
In November 2022, the UK updated its deal with France to increase surveillance in the English Channel to block migrant crossings. The notorious Rwanda asylum plan, aka the UK and Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership, signed by then Home Secretary Priti Patel in April 2022 to relocate illegal immigrants to Rwanda for processing their asylum and resettlement had also sparked an international outcry. The UK has also struck multiple deals with Albania to facilitate the return of Albanians (refugees who failed to secure asylum in the UK, criminals in jail, and people with expired visas) to their country.
Emboldened by the government’s policies against refugees, far-right groups have been organizing anti-refugee demonstrations in several localities across the country. On the other end, progressive, anti-racist groups and the working class are standing up in solidarity with the refugees and countering the far-right movement. Many immigrant reception centers in the UK remain overcrowded and the living conditions are miserable.
On June 6, the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) said, “SMALL BOATS TO BIG BARGES…this is a government of doublespeak but always united on handing the bill for capitalist crisis and economic mismanagement to the workers. Well, we are not having it anymore.”
Source : People Dispatch