Socialist Worker

Nail Tory lies on refugees

by Helen Shooter
Issue No. 1729

MICHAEL HESELTINE last week joined Tory leader William Hague's filthy campaign to play the race card in the run-up to the election. The man Tony Blair claims is a 'one-nation Tory' launched a vicious attack on asylum seekers. 'Let's not mince our language here,' he said, claiming that most refugees were 'bogus'.

'Why should British people go without the houses they want or take longer to get treatment they need to make way for people who have cheated immigration rules?' The Tories want to whip up hysteria about the number of refugees seeking asylum in Britain.

Figures set to be released later this month are expected to show a record rise in the number of refugees arriving in Britain last year. Some 71,215 people had applied by November, with a further 7,000 refugees expected in December. This amounts to 0.1 percent of the population. Yet the Tories blame this tiny group of people for the crisis in the NHS and bad housing. Heseltine is lying about asylum seekers.

  • Refugees fleeing persecution and dire poverty do not get generous benefits and a warm welcome from the authorities. They can be forced to live miles away from friends and family. They have to survive on vouchers worth just £36.54 a week, which is 80 percent of the already meagre Income Support level. The largest number of refugees coming to Britain in December were from Iraq. Many of them are the victims of Saddam Hussein-the very people the US and Britain claim to be helping in their regular bombing raids against Iraq.

  • Asylum seekers are not responsible for the rise in waiting times for NHS treatment in Britain. It was Tory policies- and then the fact that New Labour kept to Tory spending limits for its first three years in office-that devastated the NHS.

  • There are 772,000 empty homes across Britain that could house everyone in need. But many are kept empty deliberately by landlords who want to make a killing on the housing market. The government will increase the housing crisis if it gets away with selling off council houses across the country to private businesses. Refugees are exploited by private firms who dump them in appalling accommodation, some of which has been condemned as uninhabitable.

    These 'entrepreneurs' can then claim money from the government.

    The Tories should not be allowed to get away with turning people's anger at the lack of services towards refugees. But New Labour ministers echo every Tory attack. Home Office minister Mike O'Brien answered Heseltine by boasting how brutally the New Labour government has treated refugees.

    New Labour introduced the dispersal scheme and the vouchers last April as a deliberate policy to make life harder for refugees. Any refugee who leaves the area where they were dispersed is denied any right to a home.

    Home secretary Jack Straw last month announced that 500 new places in prisons will be created for asylum seekers. The refugees will be jailed alongside prisoners on remand in jails around the country. There are already 900 refugees who are locked up at detention centres in Oxford, and near Heathrow and Gatwick airports. New Labour wants to be able to deport asylum seekers even faster.

    It is currently ramming through decisions on asylum seekers' applications to stay in Britain. There has been a 40 percent rise in the number of refugees whose claims have been rejected because they filled the form in wrongly. Organisations that support refugees say government measures are driving refugees into dire poverty.

    A report which covers the activities of more than 50 charities has been sent to the government's review of the voucher scheme, which is due to end this month. Some 41 of the organisations, including children's charities, local authorities and refugee workers, say they came across refugees who were unable to buy enough food and were going hungry.

    The Barnet Refugee Health Access Project reported that a Sri Lankan man in his sixties could not afford the special food he needed as a diabetic. The climate whipped up by the Tories and New Labour directly leads to racist attacks.

    The latest victim was 42 year old Turkish refugee Cumali Singangili. He was beaten unconscious by a group of white men on Christmas Eve as he walked home in Bermondsey in south London, and is now critically ill in hospital.


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    News
    Sat 6 Jan 2001, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1729
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