Diane Abbott MP: The Rwanda policy and demonisation of asylum seekers is a reactionary distraction

The government is pursuing a deportation policy which has already cost over £100 million, and is now spending more in legal fees, while not a single person has been deported to Rwanda.

The country is gripped by an economic crisis, economic stagnation and rising prices. This in turn is forcing a growing number of workers into strike action which directly affects the public services that are vital to all of us.

The government’s response to this is seemingly to spend more time negotiating with its own immigration legal advisers than with union representatives. They are certainly refusing to negotiate on the most substantive matter of all, which is pay.

Such wrong priorities at first seem illogical. The government is pursuing a deportation policy which has already cost over £100 million, and is now spending more in legal fees, while not a single person has been deported to Rwanda. Yet its main cry is that ‘there is no money left’.

This is because the Rwanda policy is not really about asylum-seekers at all, although they are clearly the main victims of its callousness. Instead, the demonisation of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants is actually the government’s response to the economic crisis and all the hardships that they have helped to impose.

To the strikers themselves, some of whom are facing double-digit percentage declines in real pay since the Tories came to office in 2010, the government’s response is insults, smears and a refusal to negotiate.  The response of ministers to the misery and chaos that their policies have caused is the classic reactionary politics of distraction.

People are being swamped by bills they cannot pay, not refugees. Their energy and food bills are rising because the government is allowing grotesque profiteering by huge multinational companies. Their pay is being cut by those same companies and the biggest culprit of all, the government.  Ministers claim that inflation-matching pay rises fuels inflation, having just provided a £60 billion windfall for the banks.  This is not even a one-off, but a recurring charging on public funds.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with the asylum-seekers themselves. The repeated fanfare surrounding ‘action’ on refugees shows that this a political propaganda campaign, designed as a distraction from the real issues facing the population.

Remember, it was the Home Secretary who bizarrely claimed she dreamt of a Daily Telegraph frontpage with news of a Rwanda deportation flight. Note, that this was a headline, not the flight itself, and note too which outlet she identified. This is a vile, reactionary core vote policy and something to distract the rest of the population.

The policy itself is not working, even on its own terms. Far from being ‘vindicated’ by the recent High Court ruling, the judgement means that ministers and their department will have to return to carefully assessing the merits of each asylum application, and allowing those which are valid (the vast majority of them).

This is the opposite of what was intended, which was a mechanism for simply rounding up Black people, people from the Middle East and Asians then simply deporting them en masse.

The standard advice to anyone caught in a similar situation to Home Office ministers now is, stop digging. But it is more likely their vile campaign will continue, absent anything else to offer voters. Judging from the polls it does not seem to be working.

But that does not mean that we should leave the asylum-seekers to their fate. There will probably be more court cases. The wider labour movement and anyone with a genuine interest in human rights will want to see rights upheld and the government’s reactionary policy rendered unworkable. It is a shameful policy and should be stopped.

(Picture credit: John Englart: Creative Commons)

Comments are closed.