“If this government wished to show any humanity at all then it knows the answer is not to intimidate people and threaten them with deportation but rather to provide them with safe and legal routes for them to be able to lawfully claim asylum here.”
By Gemma Bolton, Labour NEC & CLPD Co-Chair
At the 11th hour last week, the European Court of Human Rights did something the British courts had seemed unwilling or unable to do and blocked the inhumane, immoral and most likely illegal deportation of a group of asylum seekers from the United Kingdom to Rwanda.
It seems clear to me that sending people halfway round the world to a country they have never visited, where they have no family or friends to help them settle in, and which is in itself a developing country with its own refugee problem and questionable respect for human rights, is a shameful abdication of our country’s responsibilities on the international stage.
The so-called justification that refugees should seek asylum in the first safe country they reach is simply laughable. When is the United Kingdom ever going to be the first safe country that refugees reach? By that yardstick, we’d be able to safely wash our hands of the world’s growing refugee problem for good and let less developed countries continue to take the strain.
The government claims its policy is grounded purely in humanitarian concerns: stopping smugglers from taking advantage of asylum seekers and trafficking them dangerously in rubber dinghies across the Channel. And yet if this government wished to show any humanity at all then it knows the answer is not to intimidate people and threaten them with deportation but rather to provide them with safe and legal routes for them to be able to lawfully claim asylum here.
Rather than take the criticism on board and re-consider its ill-thought-out plans, however, the government prefers to bludgeon its way forward. If the European Court of Human Rights is a barrier then the United Kingdom will simply withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights or, at the very least, make the Court’s rulings subordinate to domestic court rulings. This is shameful because the ECHR has been an international guarantor of human rights since the United Kingdom (including Conservative MPs) helped set it up in 1950.
It acts as an arbiter not only in cases of refugee rights but in cases involving any European citizen who has exhausted all domestic recourse in their efforts to gain justice. Such a decision would place us on a par with the only other European country to have done so: Russia.
This policy is set to fail from the outset and the government knows this. They continue because of the optics of it, a policy designed to garner support from people at home who have been brainwashed into believing their jobs and pay are more at risk from immigrants than they are from big bosses and government itself. You only have to look at the pay, conditions and modernization programme the train companies are trying to foist onto the RMT to see where the greatest threat to pay and job security is coming from. It’s certainly not immigrants!
These people must be provided with safe and legal routes via which they are able to claim asylum and they should have the right to have their cases heard fairly and swiftly. This is the least the sixth richest country in the world should be doing: showing a little humanity to those less fortunate than ourselves. We stand to gain a lot in return.
As for the Labour leadership and the front bench, fiscal responsibility seems to come above moral goodness, with most of their comments on this horrendous new policy being about how much it would cost. Instead of bowing to the anti-migrant narrative of the right-wing press, Labour should use its airspace to articulate a humane alternative to the Tories racist agenda.
The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy is promoting the below motion to urge the Labour leadership to do just that. Please take the motion to your next Branch or CLP meeting and pressure Labour to change tack.
Labour should oppose the sending of asylum seekers to Rwanda
This CLP condemns the unethical, inhumane and racist Tory policy of forcibly sending asylum seekers to Rwanda. We call on the party leadership to make a clear statement in opposition to this obscene Tory policy.
This CLP welcomes the decision of the European Court of Human Rights which forced the cancellation of the first scheduled flight on 14 June 2022.
This CLP commends the generosity of people who have offered tangible support, including accommodation in their own homes, to refugees fleeing persecution and war. We further note the scale of opposition to the inhumane treatment of people who just want to rebuild their lives here in safety.
The CLP calls on the national party to maintain its 2019 policy on dismantling the ‘hostile environment’ and actively challenging racist anti-immigrant narratives. That policy must now include a clear principled position that the next Labour Government will immediately cancel the Rwanda Asylum Scheme and adopt a humane and ethical asylum policy consistent with our international obligations
- Gemma Bolton is a members’ representative on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and the Co-Chair of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD).
- You can follow Gemma Bolton on twitter here, and follow the CLPD on Facebook and twitter.