The UK government and right-wing media have returned to their classic ‘migrant blaming’ as some refugees have crossed the channel this summer – with Farage mid lockdown filmed on the empty beaches of Kent waving at the invisible ‘threat’, and Priti Patel now setting up plans to ‘protect’ our country from innocent refugees with naval warships.
You would hope that something like a global pandemic would instil more empathy in people, but it’s also the perfect time to play on people’s fears. As we face mass unemployment, the long told narrative that these people are merely coming to the UK to ‘take our jobs’ and ‘drain our economy’ rather than fleeing war and persecution, is going to be used to affect people emotionally. It is the government’s favourite distraction, a voiceless and stateless ‘other’ to detract blame in the wake of their failings and corruption.
One of the highest coronavirus death tolls in the world, corruption within the government. It seems that a global pandemic is also perfect timing for the Tories to secure more money and power for themselves. How much are they talking about the £250m contract wasted on ‘faulty masks’ by an offshore company with links to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss? What is being done about the 50 million pounds in tax snatched from the poorest borough in London, Tower Hamlets, by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick’s deal with billionaire property developer Richard Desmond? What about Boris Johnson’s dodgy list of nominations of those who will be given lifelong patronage in the House of Lords, that includes his own brother? Just a few things that have happened over the past few weeks, but the focus is on a few hundred helpless refugees, who have a legal right to seek asylum in this country.
Divide and conquer is a power grabbing move that totalitarian states throughout history have adopted, and it is a favourite of the UK government; make us fight between ourselves and blame those who have nothing, whilst behind the scenes they secure more and more money and power for themselves.
There is enough to go around, but it is in the wrong hands.
The main argument given against refugees coming to the UK to seek asylum, is that they should seek asylum in ‘the first safe country they reach’. This article from the independent outlines some of the reasons that France is certainly not a safe country for many refugees. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/refugees-english-channel-boats-migrants-death-a9663031.html?fbclid=IwAR2WE3dFEpe2OUr2i8YHU067mFmATX7vfYGT9LfF0W16XyWlk7NemUCOdPs
Under international law, people have the right to seek asylum and safety in any country, however there are not currently safe routes for people to access this legal right. Northern France is a treacherous place for many refugees. When I was there in 2016, there were children being swept off the street in Paris by gangs, with no-one to protect them, and people lived in fear of the police.
The idea that the UK is a soft touch when it comes to accepting refugees, is incorrect. This year we have only accepted 4000 refugees and in total just over 125,000. Lebanon, a country now torn apart, has welcomed 1.5 million, Germany over a million. The UK has a moral obligation to accept and welcome more refugees, and we need to change the narrative around it.
Asylum seekers in this country are given less than £38 a week to live on, and do not have the legal right to work. It is about safety, not money. What lengths would you go to, to keep your family safe?