Socialist Worker

Refugees are not to blame

Issue No. 1765

Stop the scapegoating

Refugees are not to blame

Education spending at lowest since 1962 Fewer homes now built than in 1971 Mclabour is out to privatise everything

POLITICIANS IN Britain and across the world are targeting refugees. They want us to blame refugees for the lack of hospitals, schools and decent housing. They must think we're stupid. New Labour has created the worst teacher shortage for over 30 years.That has nothing to do with refugees.

It's because New Labour has continued Tory policies on education. The result is that government spending on education has hit the lowest level since 1962. It was just 4.5 percent of the national income in 1998-9. Even under Margaret Thatcher it was 4.7 percent.

Home secretary David Blunkett was education minister until May. He doesn't admit the government has been robbing our children's schools. Instead he wants to direct our anger towards 1,600 refugees living in a hangar in the Sangatte camp in France. New Labour has also followed Tory policies on housing.

So since Tony Blair was elected in 1997 there has been less social housing built and a boom in private sector houses with exorbitant rents. That means fewer affordable homes for ordinary people than there were 30 years ago. No wonder the government is happy for refugees to get the blame for the lack of housing.

New Labour's priorities aren't about rescuing the services we need-hospitals, transport, elderly care or nurseries. They aren't about rescuing vulnerable refugees who flee war, poverty or torture. New Labour, just like the Tories, only cares about big business and its interests, in Britain and across the globe.

It is inviting the multinational McDonald's and many other companies into its conference later this month in Brighton. Tony Blair praises these big businesses as "wealth creators". Yet these companies give giant handouts to their fat cat directors while sacking workers by the thousands.

The free market that New Labour worships means money travels the globe at the touch of a button. But borders are closed to the victims of this system, the unemployed across the world condemned for looking for work in other countries. New Labour promotes Britain as the country ready to sell deadly weapons to anyone with enough cash to buy them.

The Ministry of Defence is hosting an arms fair for the world's leading arms and military equipment companies next week. This means more conflict and death in wartorn countries. But anyone trying to flee such horror will be vilified and hounded by the same governments which traded the weapons.

People applying for asylum in Britain last year made up just 0.16 percent of the population. This tiny figure exposes the hysteria from press and politicians about a "refugee crisis". Refugees in Britain don't live in luxury. They can be locked up in detention centres run by private companies, or even in prison.

They are dispersed to towns across the country, and forced to live off vouchers worth just �36.54 a week, 70 percent of the meagre Income Support level. New Labour wants its harsh treatment of refugees to reach even further. David Blunkett wants the French government to shut the Red Cross camp in Sangatte.

He claims the camp is appealing to refugees. In the hangar built for 600 people, there are 1,600 refugees. A refugee family in Sangatte will be housed with two other families, with up to 25 people crammed into a ten square metre space. And as Nick Hardwick from the Refugee Council explains, "Before it was opened there were people sleeping in the streets and in the parks before they tried to get to Britain.

"Sangatte was opened in response to the number of asylum seekers already there. It is not the reason they go there." Refugees are stuck there because New Labour has removed any chance of them getting into Britain legally. So refugees are forced to risk their lives jumping on Eurotunnel's trains as they pass by, trying to walk through the tunnel or paddling to Britain in an inflatable dinghy.

New Labour's threats to further clamp down on asylum seekers has led more of them to try what they think may be their last chance. That fear drove three Afghan refugees to cling to the side of a Eurostar train until it arrived in Kent. Another 140 refugees tried to walk through the tunnel last week as the trains sped past.

These refugees are from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran-some of the most devastated countries in the world. Many of them speak fluent English and are qualified as doctors, nurses or teachers. Yet New Labour wants to keep them all out. The government faces opposition from people who oppose privatisation. Many of those people also condemn the scapegoating of refugees. United we can take on New Labour, and demand its stops bowing before big business and welcomes refugees.

Attack capitalism, not its victims


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Sat 8 Sep 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1765
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