A vicious Tory attack could kill more child refugees as they try to make it to safety in Britain.
Boris Johnson has torn up a promise to protect the rights of unaccompanied child refugees after Britain fully leaves the European Union (EU) in December 2020.
MPs backed the prime minister’s Brexit deal by 358 to 234 votes last week. And they defeated Labour peer Alf Dubs’ amendment that would have allowed some child refugees to join their families in Britain.
The move will force many more who should have the legal right to claim asylum in Britain to risk death.
Hossein, a Kurdish Iranian refugee who came to Britain aged 15 in 2016, says there will “definitely be more deaths”.
British and EU border rules forced Hossein to endure 15 hours in the back of a refrigerated lorry from Dunkirk to Leeds. “If I had been inside for five minutes more, I would have been dead,” he told Socialist Worker.
“It was really cold, like -18 or -20 degrees. As soon as I got in I could feel the freeze, but I couldn’t make a noise.”
Hossein said he and the 13 others weren’t detected by Calais border guards’ thermal imaging because it was so cold.
“When we came to England we had to make a lot of noise, but the driver didn’t notice anything,” he said. “I could feel all my energy going away.”
Tory Brexit minister Robin Walker claimed, “This government is fully committed both to the principle of family reunion and to supporting the most vulnerable children. Our policy has not changed.” EU immigration policy is already harsh towards refugees.
The EU’s Dublin Regulation forces refugees to apply for asylum in the first member state they reach, and allows other states to turn them away. Unaccompanied children who have family in another member state can get around it.
This already forces many under 18—like Hossein—into the hands of people smugglers, onto overloaded boats and into the backs of refrigerated lorries.
Some 12,248 child refugees were granted protection in Britain since 2010, according to Home Office statistics. But charity Safe Passage last week pointed out that only around 700 had come to Britain using official settlement schemes. Gamar, a refugee who came to Britain in the back of a freezer lorry, fears the government could try to undermine family reunion altogether.
He told Socialist Worker the Home Office “made life difficult” as he waited for his asylum seeker status.
“I had to wait seven months,” he said. “I was then allowed to apply for my children to come here under family reunion.
“You still have to wait two or three months for family reunion, but they could come directly from Khartoum. I still have my twins, seven year old boys, in Sudan and want them to join me, but that could be harder.” Refugees are fleeing war, dictatorship, poverty and climate change. They should have the right to come to Britain safety—regardless of their age or whether they have family in the country already.
Stand Up To Racism has called demonstrations in London and Glasgow for Saturday 21 March. They are a key opportunity to take on the Tories’ racism and to build a movement that can force the government to open Britain’s border.
Rally resists racist grafitti
Up to 100 anti-racists rallied against Islamophobia in south London on Friday of last week after racist graffiti was sprayed on a building opposite North Brixton Islamic Cultural Centre.
The protest was called by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR).
Zeinab Mohammed, who goes to the mosque, said, “This is the direct result of what people hear on the telly.
“When people hear the prime minister say these things, that person will think they can do anything they want to.”
Speakers included SUTR joint national convenor Weyman Bennett, Sheikh Baimba and representatives from the centre.
Trade unionists brought banners from the NEU and Unison unions, and the Unison black workers’ group in Lambeth.
Turkish coast refugee deaths
Eleven refugees—including eight children—drowned off the western coast of Turkey last week.
Their boat sank between the Turkish resort of Cesme and the Greek island of Chios, which are 15 kilometres apart.
Thousands of refugees live in unsanitary conditions on the island awaiting to see if their asylum applications have been accepted.
A deal between the European Union and Turkey, signed in 2015, makes it easier to deport refugees back to Turkey.
The number of refugees, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, taking the route has increased recently.