Time and again we ask ourselves how low the Tories can sink. Time and again they seem to hit a new low in immorality, brutality and corruption. At last it seems that, just possibly, more and more members of the British public are seeing them for what they are and are turning against them, not only because so many are suffering under the current Government, but because Rishi Sunak and his iniquitous team are so clearly intent on pursuing cruel, inhumane, heartless policies, especially when it comes to refugees.
One of Sunak’s key pledges was to put a stop to the refugees arriving on our shores after a perilous journey across the world’s busiest shipping lane. The Tories have always had a cruel and punitive attitude to those escaping war, poverty and persecution. Successive Prime Ministers and Home Secretaries have pursued increasingly vindictive policies to deter those who are fleeing to join family members and seek a better life for themselves and their children.
Our News Team published an article on 28th June called “Rwanda Policy is inhumane, ineffective and costly’. It discusses the Rwanda policy and the Illegal Migration Bill and points out that the policy towards refugees is “an example of how the ruling class will use the state to keep its power by enforcing ruthless and brutal policies against even the most vulnerable.” Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa director for Human Rights Watch, believes it is impossible for assurances to be given that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda by the British Government will be safe from violence and abuse.
Braverman’s plans for refugees are designed to be cruel. In a recent article in the i newspaper (10th August) Ian Dunt describes the policies as “a theatre of sadism”.
Turning on refugees and treating them with such inhumanity is a cynical ploy by the Tories to attract votes, as they panic about the next general election results. Braverman and her ilk try to foment the anti-refugee chorus. Early in July, Minister for Immigration, Robert Jenrick, gave instructions that murals of Mickey Mouse and other cartoon characters, which were created to welcome child asylum seekers to the Dover reception centre, should be painted over in case they sent too welcoming a message. Astonishingly, this was a step too far even for Nigel Farage, who thought it a mean act.
Among the other cruel Government measures for refugees has been setting up the Bibby Stockholm barge accommodation in Portland. There have been objections to the policy, and some refugees refused to be taken there and mounted legal challenges. Lee Anderson, Tory MP and Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party, commented that asylum seekers should “fuck off back to France” if they don’t want to be sent to the Bibby Stockholm barge. It was Anderson of course who made the despicable remark that poor people cannot budget or cook properly. Instead of outrage from fellow Tories and the Prime Minister at these hateful comments, Anderson was backed by Downing Street. Alex Chalk, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, remarked: “There is a lot of sense, in my respectful view, in what Lee says”. Number 10 endorsed Chalk by stating: “The Justice Secretary was speaking on behalf of the Government”. Robert Jenrick added that, if asylum seekers refused to be coerced on to the barge, they would not receive even the pitiful and insulting asylum support currently offered to refugees, but would simply “have to fend for themselves”. In fact the refugees who had boarded the barge were subsequently evacuated as Legionnaire’s disease was discovered in the water supply. The barge had allegedly been checked and declared ready for human occupation, but the health and safety checks were clearly totally inadequate, or else evidence that Legionnaire’s disease was present was conveniently ignored. What a fiasco for the Tories and yet more trauma for the exhausted refugees. Even Conservative backbenchers were accusing the Government of incompetence and the hardly outspoken Shadow Minister for Immigration, Stephen Kinnock, was asking questions.
But, as the Tory language becomes increasingly right-wing and toxic, there are signs of a backlash against the treatment of refugees. Of course there will always be the racist right-wingers who applaud the Government’s cruelty. However, in June this year, there was an Ipsos study of more than 220,000 adults in 29 countries. It revealed that the British have one of the most positive attitudes towards refugees anywhere, third only to Spain and New Zealand. More than half of the British public have relatively favourable attitudes to refugees, and 84% agreed that “people should be able to take refuge in other countries, to escape from war or persecution”. This is a figure that has risen from 73% two years ago. There is now a sense that there is more compassion and empathy in Britain for refugees, more outrage at the heartbreaking loss of life in the English Channel, more understanding of the causes of displacement and more openness, more willingness to be welcoming, when it comes to refugees settling here, becoming part of local communities, finding work and raising their families. Increasing numbers of us are seeing the positive benefits that refugees bring to the UK and are ignoring the Government and the racist right-wing media. It looks as if Braverman and her cronies have misjudged the British people. We have had enough of their hateful vindictive language, their vile policies and their ineptness. We must not let our hope be soured by the sorry fact that the Labour Party is so ineffectual, so close to the Tories in their attitudes and plans and that they too fail to reflect the fundamental goodness that is so often displayed by members of the British public. We will hold onto the belief that there is a better future for people who are seeking a new life in the UK, a life of safety. Let us also hold on to the hope that, however brutal successive governments become, the people of this country will themselves lay the foundations for a better, more compassionate, more civilised, more equal society.