An “equality impact assessment” of the Illegal Migration Bill has conceded that the cost of sending a single person seeking asylum to Rwanda could be nearly £170,000.
So, whereas the sheer inhumanity of deporting desperate people to a country halfway across the world that has a history of human rights violations has not stabbed at the hearts of the Tory faithful, the fact that it may not be value for money, or a deterrent, has at least influenced the thinking of one.
Caroline Nokes, the Conservative chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, has been looking at the impact of the asylum system on women, children, and LGBT people. When asked if the scheme represents value for money, she responded: “No, I don’t think it does”.
Ms. Nokes continued: “I have always been concerned that it is very difficult to justify why we should be sending asylum seekers to Rwanda to be processed within the Rwandan asylum system when actually we should have better systems set up here to do it.”
More importantly, the assessment also focused on the Bill’s impact on the physical and mental well-being of vulnerable groups. A coalition of leading medical organisations warned that children detained under the proposals could be at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, clinical depression, and suicidal behaviour as they condemned the child detention provisions set out in the Bill.
The committee’s report concluded that people with particular vulnerabilities could see their risks of harm rise under recent and proposed changes to the Home Office’s management of the asylum process.
The fact is, of course, that this Equality Impact Assessment should have been carried out at the start of the policy development process, not at the end.
However, its findings are unlikely to convince the hard-hearted Suella Braverman. She is so focused on one of the key Conservative pledges of ‘stopping the boats’ that it seems that nothing is going to hold her back. Even the use of language is deliberate. By referring to ‘boats’ not ‘people’, she is doing everything she can to dehumanise and isolate people who dare to assume that they can seek sanctuary here.
The policy has been challenged in court by a number of organisations and individuals who argue that it is unlawful, and unfair and puts asylum seekers at risk of harm. The policy has also been criticised by human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who have documented cases of arbitrary detention, torture, killings, and disappearances of refugees and political opponents in Rwanda.
The policy has so far cost the UK £140m, but no asylum seekers have been sent to Rwanda yet.
There is no doubt that Suella Braverman’s hate-filled rhetoric gives confidence to the Far Right. Britain First has been out in force in Essex, where there is a proposal to house male asylum seekers in a disused RAF site in the middle of nowhere. In a leaflet being pushed through residents’ doors it talks about asylum seekers not being refugees, that they have passed through safe countries to get to ‘soft touch’ Britain, and the money spent could be used to house homeless veterans. It is no surprise that the police are not using their powers under the Public Order Act to prosecute this obnoxious group for inciting racial hatred.
The ray of hope in all this is that there continues to be opposition to this inhumane proposal across many sectors of society. Even two archbishops have spoken out against it.
Ahead of the Bill’s return to the Lords, a demonstration, including children, took place in London yesterday to protest against the policy and show solidarity with the people seeking asylum. They wrote messages of support on giant teddy bears in a demonstration organised by campaign groups Citizens UK and Together With Refugees.
It will not be easy to stop Suella Braverman. She and her corrupt government are clinging on by their fingertips. They are looking to hide their failures by ensuring that any anger is redirected, preferably towards identifiable, desperate, and powerless people. There is no doubt that UK culture has changed, and parts of Britain are no longer safe places for certain groups seeking asylum.
We have to hope that a combination of protest and legal challenges will stop this Bill. To fail is unthinkable, not only for the people seeking refuge but for all of us. It will be yet another reminder that we will no longer be able to call ourselves civilised. It 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. It is, perhaps, further evidence to support that saying, taken from nature, ‘capitalism is red in tooth and claw.’
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