AMAZINGLY, Tony Blair launched a vicious attack on refugees at the very start of the speech he refused to give to the TUC. In the week when we faced the prospect of a war that could create thousands more refugees, Blair attacked those trying to flee persecution and repression. At the same time his friend John Howard, the prime minister of Australia, was still refusing to let hundreds of refugees, who have suffered the most life threatening conditions at sea, land in Australia.
The vast majority of those aboard the ship are fleeing from the horrific conditions in Afghanistan-one of the countries Bush and Blair are thinking of bombing. Blair is willing to bomb innocent Afghan people who have suffered from decades of civil war and desperate poverty.
But he wants to make it even harder for people from Afghanistan to come into Britain. His speech said, 'We have a clear responsibility here in Britain to make sure our system is not abused. Already in the past few years we have tightened the rules, increased immigration staff and brought in measures to curb the horrific trade in illegal immigrants.'
And he warned, 'Over the next few weeks we will announce a further series of measures as we and others in Europe come under renewed pressure from migration'. Blair's tough talk about refugees was a deliberate attack on TGWU leader Bill Morris, who has taken a principled stand against scapegoating asylum seekers.
It would have angered delegates who had given Bill Morris rousing applause when he spoke out against the government's inhumane treatment of refugees. On the first day of the conference many delegates had spoken out against the government's appalling treatment of refugees.
Many applauded Bob Norris of the National Union of Journalists when he spoke out against 'the government, which condemned the far right, but which harasses and unlawfully imprisons asylum seekers'.
The cancellation of the conference prevented a debate on an emergency motion on asylum which challenged the government's policy. It called for the scrapping of vouchers and an end to detaining asylum seekers.