Illegal Migration Bill uses ‘same dehumanising rhetoric’ as Enoch Powell

The UK's leading race equality think tank has compared the Bill to the 'Rivers of Blood' speech

Enoch Powell

The UK’s leading race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust has accused the government’s Illegal Migration Bill of using the ‘same dehumanising rhetoric’ as Enoch Powell’s ‘River’s of Blood’ speech.

The Illegal Migration Bill is currently making its way through parliament. The legislation would mean that asylum claims from anyone who arrives in the UK via irregular or unlawful means would be automatically rejected. It would also place a duty on the home secretary to deport anyone who arrives through these means – which includes small boats crossing the English Channel – to Rwanda or a ‘safe third country’.

This legislation would make claiming asylum incredibly difficult as there are very few safe and legal routes for refugees to arrive in the UK. If the Bill becomes law, refugees will usually only be able claim asylum through established schemes – such as those for people fleeing Ukraine or Afghanistan.

The Runnymede Trust has blasted the Bill and drawn parallels between it and the then Tory MP Enoch Powell’s infamous racist speech on immigration which was delivered on April 20 1968 – 55 years ago today.

In a Tweet thread, the think tank said: “55 years ago today, Enoch Powell gave his poisonous “Rivers of Blood” speech, filled with claims about ‘alien inflows’ and ‘fraudulent entry’. We were founded the same year. The ‘Illegal’ Migration Bill returns to Parliament next week, with that same dehumanising rhetoric.

“Similar to Powell, the so-called ‘Illegal’ Migration Bill sows seeds for division, strips people of their humanity, and seeks to deprive them of their legal rights. Whether directly or not, this Bill will harm ethnic minority communities both now and in years to come.

“The Windrush Scandal is a key example of how Powellist Hostile Environment policies wrongfully and systematically stripped people of their fundamental rights. As our [government] celebrates #Windrush75, it continues to introduce legislation that will have deeply racialised impacts.

“The UK has enough jobs and resources to go round, it is a political choice that so many are locked out of opportunity and living in poverty. Leaders across the political spectrum cannot continue to distract from the cost-of-living crisis by scapegoating people seeking safety.

“It’s a tale as old as time, with dangerous and far-reaching consequences. The so-called ‘Illegal’ Migration Bill will further entrench the injustices, inequalities and harm that marginalised communities already face. It must, and can, be stopped in its entirety.”

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

Image credit: Allan Warren – Creative Commons

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