Shouting at the radio about refugee rights

I’ve started shouting at the radio again.

The spate of recent announcements by the government about refugees is making me angrier and angrier. Over the last few weeks there has been a lead story most mornings about refugees and government announcements to tackle this scourge invading our shores! And the Illegal Migrant Bill going through the House is going to virtually outlaw the ability to claim asylum in the UK.

So why am I getting so angry?

Well, I think:

  1. The politicians are laying the blaming firmly with the refugee themselves. As if its their fault they are fleeing persecution and war. Put yourselves in their shoes for just one thoughtful minute. They are being made out to be the wrong doers. Not the criminal gangs, war lords, arms manufacturers and governments responsible for their plight.
  2. There is a General Election coming up next year. The government’s approach is to s0w division (a popular approach deployed by politicians across the globe in the last 10 years) forcing people to choose a side: ‘you’re with us or against us’.
  3. It’s just racist. The government opened its arms to white refugees fleeing Ukraine (and the money supporting them through Local Authorities is considerable) versus how they treat and/or fund any other refugee communities.
  4. It’s a tactic by the government to deflect and distract from the poor administration and lack of investment into the UK’s asylum system.

A figure of £6m a day to house 51,000 people in hotels is being banded about daily. These refugees must be living the life of riley (actually most of the hotels are grim). So the government’s response is to propose putting them on barges and into disused army barracks and only ‘meet their basic needs’. This must the third or fourth time a government has suggested prison barges. It’s shocking. It’s headline grabbing. And it hasn’t materialized, nor is it likely. But it’s good for ‘othering’ refugees, creating a division between them and us.

Oh and don’t forget that our government has already handed over £120m to the Rwanda government. And sent how many refugees? Zero, nil, none. You could keep KLS going for another 120 years with this sort of money!

The government is not administering the asylum system effectively. There is a backlog of 160,000 people applying for asylum, who are currently languishing in hotels and detention centres. The average wait for an assessment is 18 months, and for many this can last for 3-4 years. Leaving thousands in limbo: they can’t learn English, they can’t work, they have £8 a week to live off (though accommodation and food costs are covered), with limited access to legal representation. The government should provide the proper investment to clear this and it should reinstate its 98% target to making a decision within 6 months. An experienced assessor can make a decision in just half a day, once all the evidence is collected. It can be done if the political will is there.

I volunteered with the Refugee Council 26 years ago in one of their reception centres, and back then there were the same arguments, the same poor administration, the same amnesties to clear the backlogs, the same rhetoric about refugees coming over here for solely economic reasons and taking our jobs. Sort the system, not the people using it. And stop picking on the most vulnerable in our society. It does leave me wondering who’s next on their list to have a go at.

Aaron Barbour
KLS Director

Featured image: John Gomez/Shutterstock

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