“We need a Labour government that will champion a humanitarian approach to refugees, defend the right to asylum and take action against the crises of climate change, war, persecution and poverty.”
By Sabby Dhalu, Stand up to Racism
Last week Labour announced a set of asylum policies after a summer of the racist Tory “Stop the Boats” disaster.
Some of these policy announcements would be a step forward from the present government approach. These include: striking a deal with the EU on accepting a quota of asylum seekers, clearing the backlog on processing asylum applications, ending the use of hotel and barges such as the Bibby Stockholm to house asylum seekers, reuniting displaced children with family in Britain and scrapping the Rwanda scheme.
However Labour’s overall approach concedes to the Tory agenda in that it treats asylum seekers as a problem that needs to be curtailed and burden on the taxpayer, rather than human beings that needed to be treated with compassion and dignity. Labour must defend the right to asylum.
Meanwhile there is little mention of the actual problems that need to be curtailed I.e. the causes of a rise in people seeking asylum: climate change disasters, war, persecution, exploitation and poverty leading people to flee their countries. There needs to be international cooperation on solving these problems as well as agreements on sharing the responsibility of providing protection for refugees. We need a Labour government that will provide leadership on tackling these issues.
Regarding the cost of housing asylum seekers, it is government policy and legislation that prevent asylum seekers from working, earning their own income and organising their own accommodation, which mean asylum seekers are a cost to the taxpayer. The law needs to be changed. Labour must allow asylum seekers the right to work and pay taxes whilst their asylum applications are being processed.
“Smashing criminal gangs” was a headline grabbing slogan that was announced. Of course there must be international cooperation on taking action against criminal gangs that make a profit from exploiting desperate and vulnerable people needing safety.
There must be an end to people being forced to make perilous and traumatic journeys across the Channel and Mediterranean, often resulting in many drowning in the sea.
The root cause of this problem is that criminals take full advantage of the fact that the government has not introduced any safe routes, such as those given to Ukrainian refugees, for asylum seekers that need to cross the Channel.
Keir Starmer has suggested Labour would negotiate France preventing asylum seekers from crossing the Channel in exchange for Britain accepting a quota of refugees from the EU.
However such policies are neither communicated to nor understood by asylum seekers in insecure circumstances. Britain had an Afghanistan resettlement policy of accepting a woefully inadequate 5,000 refugees after the Taliban recaptured Afghanistan.
As the Refugee Council report shows only 54 Afghans have been newly resettled under the government’s Afghan citizens resettlement scheme. Yet more than 8,000 Afghans who arrived here in the past year, crossed the Channel in small boats out of desperation. For every Afghan who managed to arrive through a resettlement scheme, almost 90 risked their lives at sea.
This illustrates that such schemes and settlement programmes do not necessarily work in practice. There is no alternative to providing safe routes as a solution to the boat crossings. Labour must introduce safe passage for refugees.
We need a Labour government that will champion a humanitarian approach to refugees, defend the right to asylum and take action against the crises of climate change, war, persecution and poverty that are driving people to flee their home countries.
- Sabby Dhalu is the Co-Convener of Stand up to Racism (SUTR). You can follow Sabby on Twitter here; and SUTR Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
- Stand Up To Racism are holding a fringe event at Labour Party Conference 2023: ‘Fighting the Tories Racist Agenda.’ Take part alongside Richard Burgon MP; Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP; Mish Rahman, Labour NEC (personal capacity) and more at Revolucion de Cuba, Unit 17, Albert Dock, Liverpool, L3 4AF on Monday 9th October at 12.45pm.
- If you support Labour Outlook’s work amplifying the voices of left movements and struggles here and internationally, please consider becoming a supporter on Patreon.