Socialist Worker

Whipping up hatred against the persecuted

Issue No. 1684

Jack straw and tabloid press

Whipping up hatred against the persecuted

THE OWNERS of the tabloid press unleashed a stream of hatred last week. Their targets were the 144 people from Afghanistan who had just been subject to the terrifying three day ordeal of a plane hijack. Any British citizens suffering such an ordeal would have received nothing but sympathy from the tabloids. But these newspapers have pumped out lie after lie to whip up hatred against the Afghan refugees who sought asylum in Britain.

Those leading the hate campaign are:

  • THE SUN and its Australian billionaire boss Rupert Murdoch.
  • THE MAIL, owned by the super-rich Rothemere family.
  • THE MIRROR, owned by the multi-million pound Trinity Group.

They want us to believe that people fleeing persecution are to blame for homelessness, poverty, overcrowded conditions and run down hospital services.

Disgracefully home secretary Jack Straw has joined in this tirade of hatred and scapegoating. He declared last week that he will use emergency powers to decide personally if any of the Afghan refugees will be allowed to stay in Britain. He made it clear that he wants to kick all the refugees out. But since when have Straw's "personal" decisions shown any regard for justice? This is the man who wants to let General Pinochet, the butcher of many thousands of ordinary people in Chile, escape trial for his crimes.

Last week we saw the disgusting spectacle of Straw trying to outdo his twin on the Tory benches, Ann Widdecombe, matching filthy comment for filthy comment. Yet the people they attacked were those fleeing a brutal regime. Afghanistan has been racked by war and reduced to terrible poverty. In April 1998 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights condemned the widespread human rights abuses in Afghanistan.

As Nick Hardwick of the Refugee Council said, "The truth is the hijack is a desperate act by desperate men, desperate to get their families to safety." Afghans are the largest single refugee group in the world. Up to five million refugees from Afghanistan live in Pakistan and Iran. Between 1990 and 1998 93 percent of Afghans who applied for asylum in Britain were allowed to stay. But now New Labour wants to slam the door in their face.

Refugees welcome here

THE GOVERNMENT and tabloid newspaper chiefs applaud the free market and the global economy. They praise the fact that wealth and business can move across borders. Yet the same government and newspapers round on those whose lives have been bled dry by the international capitalist system and who try to seek refuge and shelter.

In a sane world people would be able to travel and live wherever they wanted to, and would have complete freedom of movement. The massive wealth and profits of multinational companies and the billions wasted on weapons of destruction would be ploughed into eradicating poverty, and providing clean water, free healthcare and education in all parts of the world. But while the capitalist system continues to destroy the lives of the poorest it is our duty to fight as hard as possible to ensure that everyone, whether they are fleeing poverty, injustice or repression, is welcome into this country.

Lies and more lies

  • LIE: The refugees have been living the high life at the luxury Hilton Hotel. The Stansted Hilton is not the same as the Hilton in London which caters for the super-rich. The hotel is a transit hotel where anyone who suffers a delayed flight is put up. Even the Daily Mail admitted that the refugees were likely to have been confined to their rooms and not allowed to use any of the jacuzzi, gym or hairdressing facilities that the tabloids screamed about.
  • LIE: The Sun says that the asylum system in Britain guarantees asylum seekers "years of the cushy life on benefits". Refugees only get 70 percent of the benefits other people get. Most of this is in vouchers for "essential goods". All refugees get in cash is 1 for adults and 50p for children a day. This is why many asylum seekers are forced to beg on the streets to get enough money to live on.
  • LIE: Asylum seekers are given a home while many families in Britain live in overcrowded accommodation or are homeless. New Labour wants to settle refugees in internment camps or "reception zones". The zones will be outside London, often away from the support networks asylum seekers have developed to look after each other. There are enough homes to give everyone a roof over their head-some 750,000 empty homes in Britain.
  • LIE: The Sun says asylum seekers are a drain on resources and the money could be spent on hospitals. The cost of supporting asylum seekers, including welfare benefits, accommodation, legal aid, health and education, amounts to just 0.33 percent of income tax. New Labour refuses to tax the rich, which would free up millions to spend on the NHS and education. Rupert Murdoch, the owner of News International, which produces the Sun, paid only 1.2p in the pound in tax from 1985 to 1995 on recorded profits of 1 billion.
  • LIE: Britain is a soft touch and refugees are flooding in. Britain has taken fewer asylum seekers in the last 15 years than other countries. Germany has taken over two million refugees. Holland, whose population is smaller than Britain, has taken 200,000. In 1995 54,000 people left Britain-10,000 more than were seeking asylum. Just one person for every 1,400 living in the country applied for asylum in Britain last year.

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Sat 19 Feb 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1684
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