By Lucy Wright
Constructed as the Conservative’s public enemy number one, the new Illegal Migration Bill attempts to prohibit those who enter the UK on a small boat. Behind the cruel slogan “stop the boats”, the new bill is designed to prevent those who illegally cross the English Channel from France on small boats from making an asylum claim and seeking citizenship.
Under the new bill, those who illegally enter the UK would be returned to their home country or displaced to Rwanda. Furthermore, as the bill will be applied retrospectively, those who arrived before the enactment of the bill will be in danger of detention or removal.
The government’s plan to offshore those who seek asylum here in the UK to Rwanda is a cruel commodification of human life that is destined to fail. Offshoring involves the relocation of business from one country to another typically due to rising costs and should not be used in the same semantic field as those who seek asylum. Relocating immigrants to Rwanda is unsustainable and will only ultimately divert time and resources from producing a humane effective response to migration issues. It’s like putting a plaster on a broken bone; it’s not effective nor is it going to fix the issue.
It is not safe to deport refugees to Rwanda. The government has knowingly ignored evidence that Rwanda has previously violated human rights such as the right to live free from torture. For LGBTQ+ Refugees, the government travel advice website itself recognises Rwanda to be unsafe, noting that individuals in Rwanda can experience discrimination and abuse, including from local authorities.
What happens when Rwanda is no longer a sustainable option? After all, since leaving the EU and the Dublin Regulation the UK no longer has the arrangements in place with other countries which would facilitate the deportation of refugees to a safe third country. The new bill is not only highly dangerous and inhumane but also flawed. Braverman is right, the migrant problem is unsustainable, but so is her solution.
Whilst already pushing the limits of international human rights law, the new draconian Illegal Immigration Bill is also unsafe domestically for those who are seeking asylum or already have. Firstly the threat of deportation to Rwanda is said to be already having a detrimental impact on the mental health of those who seek and have sought asylum. The bill also constructs an incredibly dangerous discourse in which refugees are portrayed as criminals. This inevitably encourages and incites hostility towards refugees amongst extremist groups. Ultimately, referring to refugees and smugglers in the same speech has dangerous implications for the public opinion of refugees and the ability to produce widespread hatred towards refugees.
Immigration has now been ranked above NHS waiting lists in terms of voter concern amongst Conservatives voters. As a result, perhaps the only thing the new Illegal migration bill is effective at is inciting British nationalism and encouraging far-right patriotism amongst voters by demonising refugees as criminals. Braverman states the current asylum system costs the British taxpayer £3 billion a year – another flippant attempt at commodifying the lives and safety of refugees.
Toxically employing the narrative that British people are victims in their society due to the rise of immigration, Braverman claims that failing to control the “waves of illegal migrants” would “betray” voters. It seems it is back to the future for the current Conservative Government, echoing the vitriolic and divisive immigration stance of Nigel Farage in which refugees are the enemy. Conceivably, the British people are victims of their Government, from a decade of austerity to the mishandling of the pandemic. Is this just another poor attempt of the Conservative government trying to disguise their previous failures?
In light of this, Sunak’s slogan “stop the boats” could be more aptly named “stop the Tories”. Despite being the son of immigrants, Rishi Sunak’s illegal immigration bill is unsurprisingly discriminative, illegal, and unsustainable. Caroline Lucas is right to call the bill morally repugnant. Nobody with an ounce of care for the human lives of those seeking asylum in the United Kingdom should support the bill.
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