Priti Patel broadcasts refugee stories according to her own agenda
In March, Priti Patel made baseless comments that migrants pretended to be victims of modern slavery to gain residency.
In June, she faced calls to resign after falsely telling parliament that conditions at the Napier barracks for refugees were safe for Covid and met public health guidelines.
And this month, Priti Patel mistakenly told the Justice and Home Affairs Committee that a majority of people crossing the Channel are not refugees.
One would expect a minister repeatedly found misled by Parliament like this to be forced to resign, as Amber Rudd was in 2018 following the Windrush scandal. In a time of sordid Tories where ministers can seemingly make the rules that work for them, it is perhaps not surprising that Priti Patel’s position is unassailable.
My family fled oppression and conflict during the Algerian War of Independence. It is heartbreaking to see refugees being treated like political footballs and maddening to see our Home Secretary get away with it.
But what is even more alarming is that the Home Secretary is using her position to skew the refugee debate, while also poised to make the biggest change to our asylum process since. decades.
The Nationality and Borders Bill will soon reach third reading. The bill has been condemned by charities, activists and refugee communities because it will make conditions even more hostile for refugees.
The proposals include the detention of refugees offshore, the effective criminalization of refugees if they arrive in a way the government does not approve of, and the legalization of pushing back refugee boats across the Channel. Reckless and heartless.
Refugee Action CEO Tim Naor Hilton called the bill “not designed to fix a broken system, it is designed to break people.” The Joint Council of Welfare for Immigrants described the bill as “an attack on the principles enshrined in the Refugee Convention”.
From a Green Party perspective, these proposals fall far short of the just, kind, and just system that we would like to see in support of refugees.
Instead of addressing these legitimate concerns, the Home Secretary is in fact proposing a policy to the right-wing media and the dark corners of social media where anti-refugee hatred is stoked.
This strategy of making policies through fear is having an effect on public opinion, as conservative voters now prioritize immigration management more than the pandemic, according to a YouGov poll.
From threats to force border guards to push back refugee boats to sustained attacks on lawyers representing asylum seekers, this government seems more interested in fighting cultural wars than in a rational, evidence-based policy.
Fortunately, opposition to some of the worst aspects of the bill is growing. Conservative MP David Davis tabled an amendment to remove proposals to detain refugees in places like Rwanda pending trial.
Australia has held refugees off the coast for decades. But even the Conservative government there is rethinking after serious humanitarian concerns and billions of lost taxpayer dollars.
The Home Office plans to grant legal immunity to border guards when they push back boats carrying refugees. These plans would mean a free license to cause the deaths of refugees.
Fortunately, the Border Force itself appears to have invisibly lost confidence in these new powers and refused to begin operationally pushing back ships.
But the false claims and exaggerations promoted by the government fueled the actions of far-right extremists who began to intimidate refugees hosted in temporary accommodation.
It is a scandal that the people who seek refuge here are becoming scapegoats and targets.
If these extreme measures fail, what other extreme measures can we expect?
To counter the conservative distortions, here are some facts.
The number of people seeking asylum each year has remained within a narrow range since 2015 (except for an increase in 2019, which declined the following year).
The media storm over canal crossings ignores this fact. Previously, refugees arrived in the country in a less visible way. A small number of boats in the English Channel may be more obvious, but that does not necessarily mean more asylum seekers arriving in total.
The crackdown on existing roads did not reduce the number of people coming to this country, but instead forced them to take more dangerous roads.
We need the media and responsible parliamentarians to learn about reality, then publish and amplify these facts. As the Green Party spokesperson for refugees and migrants, I find my social media mentions littered with the worst misrepresentation and distortion. All are amplified by certain corners of the press and our own Minister of the Interior.
The danger here is that Priti Patel promises a crackdown she cannot lead, which may only further harden attitudes towards refugees. Its objective is tenacity performance rather than an effective policy.
If these extreme measures fail, what other extreme measures can we expect? It was the coalition government’s 2014 immigration law that sparked the horrific Windrush scandal. What humanitarian outrage will Priti’s new immigration plan trigger next?
This anti-refugee bill should be scrapped and all progressive parties should vigorously oppose its passage. It is time to restore fairness to the asylum system.
If Priti Patel is looking for ideas, I can quote the Green Party manifesto from the last general election.
We can get to work to tackle the huge backlog of unresolved refugee claims. We can allow refugees to work, instead of forcing them not to. We can stop sending refugees back to dangerous places and we can offer the warm welcome we have promised Afghan refugees.
We can show that refugees are welcome here.
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