Socialist Worker

Resist the attacks on asylum seekers

Issue No. 1838

TONY BLAIR wants to force the victims of war on Iraq back into the path of bombs and bullets. He announced last week that he wanted to halve the number of refugees coming to Britain by September. Iraqis are the single largest group of refugees who come to Britain.

According to the government's latest figures, 4,300 people fled from Iraq to come here in July, August and September of last year. With the threat of war looming, more Iraqis will be forced to leave their homes and desperately try to seek safety elsewhere. Blair's attitude to refugees reflects the filthy lies pumped out day after day by the right wing media.

Every single day the right wing papers print a torrent of lies about asylum seekers, backed up by lurid headlines. They hurl all kinds of abuse at refugees with complete disregard for the truth. These papers say that floods of asylum seekers are swamping towns and cities like Sunderland, in the north east.

This created a climate in which last August a 28 year old Iranian man was stabbed to death in Sunderland, in what police describe as a racially motivated attack. But the number of refugees in Sunderland is minuscule-there are only 1,000 asylum seekers in a city of 300,000 people.

This situation shows how dangerous the right wing media's torrent of lies about refugees can be. The media pump out stories about refugees living in luxury being given mobile phones and furnished flats. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the victims of war and famine manage to get to Britain, they face hunger and homelessness.

New Labour's latest rules mean that refugees can be denied any benefits. Refugees are sleeping rough and are 'cold, hungry, scared and sick', it was stated in the High Court this week in a challenge to that legislation. A draft Home Office leaflet actually recommended that asylum seekers reduced to living in phone boxes or car parks should register with the nearest post office to get important documents on their case.

The pro-war Sun newspaper cheered on Blair's callous attack on refugees. It boasted, 'Blair has bowed to angry Sun readers.' This is the same newspaper that ran cruel 'jokes' on Wednesday of last week about how many Iraqis would be killed in a war. These papers lie about the war on Iraq, they lie about the firefighters and they lie about refugees.

Such sections of the press are creating the impression that vast numbers of asylum seekers are arriving in Britain every week. In fact, the number of refugees who apply for asylum in Britain each year is just 0.15 percent of the population. The number of people travelling through Britain last year was 88 million. They were tourists, visitors, students and workers.

It is estimated that 200,000 people from Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the US are living in London without facing any hostility or media outcries. New Labour is pandering to the racist, base instincts of the right wing press and politicians.

They try to whip up the fear that every refugee could be a potential terrorist. Some 88,300 people, including children, applied for asylum in Britain in 2001. Only three people have been detained in relation to any alleged 'terrorist' offences.

If you were a terrorist, are you likely to risk dying of cold clinging onto a lorry to get into Britain or risk trying to get a tourist visa? But any logic or facts have been abandoned in the anti-refugee hysteria. Instead right wing press and politicians are scapegoating desperate and vulnerable people. Tony Blair has declared war on refugees.

Everyone who is against war on Iraq should stand up for the victims of war and persecution and defend refugees.

Facts about asylum everyone should know

  • Britain is not overcrowded. Nearly 60 million people live here and the birthrate is falling.
  • There are 753,188 empty homes in Britain according to the government's own figures.
  • Immigrant workers contribute £2.5 billion a year to the economy.
  • Asylum seekers are not allowed to work until they get refugee status.
  • Asylum seekers get just 70 percent of income support. That's just £37.77 a week for an adult.

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