Hundreds of people have contacted me about the government’s disgraceful announcement that they will send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
I was also shocked at this new low. This is a cynical attempt by the Tory government to distract attention from Boris Johnson’s lies and lawbreaking, by whipping up anti-migrant feeling.
The plan they have put forward is an unworkable, unethical and extortionate policy that would make it harder not easier to get fast and fair asylum decisions and would cost the UK taxpayer billions of pounds during a cost of living crisis.
Everyone from refugee organisations to a former Conservative immigration minister have condemned these plans because they know they don’t work and are deeply damaging. Even the current Refugee Minister dismissed these plans as impossible when they were first rumoured.
Instead of sending people thousands of miles away to a country with its own human rights problems, the government should strengthen security and co-operation to stop crossings, tackle people smuggling and prevent awful loss of life in the channel. That means proper action working with Europol, the French police and other police forces and it starts with a strong working relationship with French counterparts and others in Europe.
Labour would also ensure there are safe, legal routes to sanctuary for refugees fleeing war and conflict to stop people being exploited by smuggler gangs.
I know from my own caseload that the Home Office is failing to carry out its basic duties under Priti Patel. Many Afghan asylum seekers are still in hotels because Home Office decision-making has collapsed and the backlog has soared. Delays and incompetence mean 50% fewer asylum decisions are taken compared to 5 years ago. It is shameful that under Priti Patel the Home Office has become so poor and slow at taking asylum decisions they are apparently asking Rwanda to do it instead.
A Labour government we would sort out the chaos and delays in the Home Office so asylum decisions are taken much faster and the backlog is cleared.
Finally, I should note that the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda may never happen. It would not be the first time this incompetent government has made a big announcement, for it to fall apart under scrutiny. But I’m disgusted by such depraved politics which uses desperate people’s lives as a distraction.
I am heartened by Bristol’s generous and welcoming response to the people fleeing wars in Ukraine and elsewhere. This is in stark contrast with the attitude of this government, which I will continue to oppose and challenge and work hard to replace with a Labour one.