Can migrants arriving in the UK, or attempting to get here be sent back to France? Priti Patel the home secretary, who’s favourite nursery rhyme is ‘I’m a little despot, short and stout’ seems to think so. Does she honestly ever bang on about anything else? Well I’ve got some news for her, since incredibly, she doesn’t seem to know, or rather her own inbuilt dislike of people fleeing warzones or poverty appears to dominate her thinking.
Firstly, referring to these people who may be trying to get to the UK as all being ‘migrants’ is a media spin tactic and one Patel embraces, since it implies these people do not need to be here, they just want to come here, no doubt to ‘steal our jobs’, or other common refrains to that effect. I had no idea Brexit was a migrant! It is racist baiting rhetoric from racist right wing sources and that should be condemned by anyone with an ounce of sense.
The fact is these people may be coming here for a whole host of reasons, but put yourself in their shoes for one moment and imagine how desperate their plight may well be, if they’re prepared to try and cross the channel from France to try and find a better life for themselves, particularly if its families with young children. We’ve all seen the pictures of rescues at sea, we’ve all seen the horrific images of when these crossings go tragically wrong, so just think about that. A great many of these so-called migrants are in fact refugees and that’s a major, but often omitted difference.
Now sorting out refugees from migrants happens when these people arrive and seek asylum. Nobody can be turned away when they apply for asylum it is law that they have every right to remain here whilst their application is reviewed. Sadly under the Tory regime we are enduring, they’re not doing a great job of this. We are not supposed to send people back to unsafe destinations, yet it happens. For years, the Tories have been sending people back to Afghanistan under the pretext it was safe, when actually it was only under occupation by Western forces. How did that work out?
While the rest of the world takes tens of thousands of legitimate refugees from there now, we’re only taking 5,000 a year over the next 4-5 years. How I wonder will those in the years long queue to come here survive in the meantime? We said the same thing over Syria, Theresa May as Home Secretary pledged to take 20,000 Syrians over 5 years too. Target was missed and government attitudes have not changed, in fact they’ve only hardened further. Every legal means of coming here to seek asylum have been removed, so whilst the Tories can do nothing about international law regarding people seeking asylum once here, they’ll make it as difficult as possible to get here to start with. and so we come to that question of France.
Can we turn people around and send them back to France? The answer is no. I’ll repeat that again for the serially inept Tory MP Helen Whately who was doing the media rounds on this this morning, the answer is no. It is a violation of international maritime law – if you find someone in trouble, you have to rescue them. Can you order them to turn around? Not if it is unsafe to do so and when many of these people are arriving in small boats and dinghies, attempting to cross one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, it is beyond doubt that they are in danger and should be rescued. Our rescue services can only bring them here, the RNLI for example, so it is dependent upon who exactly rescues such people as to where they end up taken.
Now when it comes to Priti Patel, she’s got serious form for this. She’s already attacked the RNLI for daring to rescue people and has threatened them with legal action if they don’t stop rescuing people and bringing them back here. It is their remit, they will not leave people at sea to die no matter how much she might want that and fair play to them – her attack on them led to a massive upsurge in donations to the RNLI, which operates as a charity and I’m sure such donations were indeed very welcome.
Nonetheless, Patel as recently as July paid the French £55m to increase their border patrols to stop people leaving France and heading here. With the best will in the world however, we’re talking massive stretches of coastline on both sides and you simply won’t catch them all. Sure there’s a safety aspect to stopping them leaving, if they can be stopped for their own safety they should, but it is impossible to stop the most determined from trying again and some will inevitably make it. Of course if this country provided a legitimate means of coming here to seek asylum, they wouldn’t need to take such desperate measures, so perhaps think on that as you ponder the realisation Priti Patel would rather throw tens of millions of pounds at the French to stop tiny boats leaving France, typically at night, often overcrowded, rather than provide a safe route to asylum.
Of course the other concern is that if you want to return people to France, you kind of need France’s permission to do so. They’ve refused. They won’t enable Patel to violate maritime law or endanger lives, as our border force are instructed to actually turn boats around. Our government would face legal action if they did so, so much as once.
Priti Patel has a problem with migrants. It never ceases to amaze me that her own parents came here as refugees in the 70’s from Uganda, that she has such a hardline stance against anyone wishing to come here and seek asylum from another country. The fact is her desire to turn boats around would be illegal, France will never accept these people back anyway in order to safeguard their lives, something our government refuses to prioritise. The RNLI thankfully will and it remains to be seen if Patel follows through on threats to target them for doing so. Anyone once here can claim asylum, it is for them to make their case for that, with the odds stacked against them even if they’re fleeing a warzone, such is the state of that system under the Tories. Our government are spreading racist, divisive rhetoric and desperate people fleeing goodness knows what shouldn’t be scapegoated by despotic little madams like Patel, or anyone else.
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