Public figures including Priti Patel and Boris Johnson have rushed to mouth condolences after 31 people, including five women and a girl, died in the English Channel while trying to reach the UK.
It’s sickening hypocrisy from the government that has done its best to ensure that people are more likely to drown than reach our shores.
And what happens if we find evidence that Patel’s Home Office policies contributed to the deaths?
Remember: Patel’s Nationality and Borders Bill proposes that anyone arriving in the UK by an illegal route, such as by a small boat across the Channel, could have their claim ruled as inadmissible, receive a jail sentence of up to four years, have no recourse to public funds, and could have their family members barred from joining them, in breach of the UN refugee convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.
It states that refugees should use safe legal routes – but there are no such routes.
Clause 38 of the Bill potentially criminalises rescuers of asylum seekers if they are deemed to be “facilitating” their arrival in the UK. It has already set Patel at odds with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which has a Royal Charter to rescue anybody facing drowning within UK territorial waters – no matter what their legal status may be.
The Home Office has said the Bill is intended to target “ruthless people smugglers” and organisations like the RNLI – and individuals – would be allowed to continue humanitarian rescue work – but mere assertion doesn’t cut any ice. If so, why amend the law to criminalise all rescues?
Now consider the rhetoric coming from the Tories after today’s tragedy – the biggest single loss of life in the Channel since the International Organisation for Migration started collecting data in 2014.
Boris Johnson said the UK would leave “no stone unturned” to stop human trafficking gangs.
He was trying to justify the unreasonable and potentially fatal policy in his government’s Bill.
As for Priti Patel: It turns out she was told back in November 2019 that her policies were causing asylum-seekers to use more dangerous routes into the UK:
“A policy that focuses exclusively on closing borders will drive migrants to take more dangerous routes, and push them into the hands of criminal groups,” the report said.
She wasn’t interested then – possibly because the report’s advice was to provide more legal routes for asylum-seekers to enter the UK, and to address their reasons for wanting to leave their own lands. She is keen to continue ensuring there are no legal routes.
So Tory policy is to ensure that refugees/asylum seekers have no choice but to use illegal means to arrive in the UK – even if it means they may drown.
They have stoked hatred against these people – who may be fleeing the effects of warfare in their own countries, either caused directly by Western governments like the UK’s Tory administration, or using weapons sold to the combatants by those governments.
The politicians who complain the most about refugees are the ones quickest to vote for the wars that create them.
— Claudia Webbe MP (@ClaudiaWebbe) November 21, 2021
And they have falsely claimed there is a refugee crisis in the UK, with the number of refugees spiralling out of control.
Take a look at the graph below. Does it look like the UK has a serious crisis to you?
— Andrew Levi (@AndrewPRLevi) November 21, 2021
Oh, and Keir Starmer and his Labour racists aren’t blameless either.
Only last week, Starmer accused the government of failing to do enough to stop crossings: “The home secretary repeatedly says in strong language what she is going to do about the immediate problem and delivers absolutely nothing,” he said.
Labour’s decision to move to the right of the Tories on maltreatment of refugees will not gain them any voters.
It simply raises the salience of that topic and displaces other topics which voters prefer Labour on.
Never fight a political battle on your opponent’s territory.
— Tory Fibs (@ToryFibs) November 21, 2021
But it isn’t Starmer’s opponents’ territory; it’s his own because he is as racist as Patel and Johnson.
Given his comments, he should not be allowed to claim any moral high ground if Tory government policy is indeed found to have contributed to this tragedy.
The solution is to open up legal routes into the UK and treat people using them as human beings who deserve to have their reasons for coming here judged fairly. It always was.
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