Socialist Worker

Refugees: now most desperate to be targeted

Issue No. 1790

New Labour immigration minister Lord Rooker congratulated the government last week for driving away refugees fleeing poverty and persecution. Vicious measures have stopped people finding safety in Britain. A glance at those who do make it shows that it is the most desperate people who try to get here.

The number of refugees from Zimbabwe more than doubled last year. The latest Home Office figures show a record number of Zimbabweans-775 people-applied for asylum from October to December last year. The three biggest groups of refugees out of the 71,000 who entered Britain last year were from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

These are three key targets in the US 'war on terrorism' backed by New Labour. New Labour has sentenced most of the new Zimbabwean refugees to its detention camp at Oakington in Cambridge. Home secretary David Blunkett is deporting 1,200 people a month and still forcing refugees into prisons if he cannot cram them into detention centres. Three refugees have tried to commit suicide after being moved to a prison from the fire damaged Yarls Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire.

The latest asylum figures also show that other European countries, Germany, France, Austria and Sweden, have seen a rise in asylum applications. This exposes the myth that Britain is some kind of 'soft touch' for asylum.

Sodding Sodexho profits again

Home Secretary David Blunkett has thrown a lifeline to the multinational Sodexho after announcing the government is scrapping the refugee voucher scheme. He said in November that vouchers would go after pressure from campaigners. The vouchers, worth £26.54 a week plus £10 in cash, stigmatised refugees.

But Blunkett is letting multinational Sodexho run cash vouchers instead of goods vouchers, so it will still make a profit. The government will also withhold the new vouchers from refugees who refuse to be dispersed around Britain away from friends and support.

Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said that would mean refugees would be 'made destitute'.

Conference to defend asylum seekers, Saturday 23 March. Called by the Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers-to book phone 07941 566 183.

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Sat 9 Mar 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1790
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