The Tories plan to grab more powers for the police and immigration officials under the guise of tackling the coronavirus crisis.
The Emergency Coronavirus Bill, outlined on Wednesday, will give cops new powers to detain and isolate people.
The government has said police and immigration officers will be able to arrest anyone who “is, or may be, infectious” and take them to a “suitable place” for assessment. They will have the “authority to enforce to enforce” measures to slow the virus.
The move comes on top of Tory home secretary Priti Patel’s extension of stop and search powers last August. Black people were nine times more likely to be stopped and searched in England and Wales in 2017-18, according to the government’s own figures.
The emergency powers will further open the door for Britain’s institutionally racist police force to harass black people and people suffering mental distress.
Rather than increasing powers for cops and immigration officials, the government should be releasing migrants from detention centres.
Ten detainee rights organisations and charities made a call for them to be released after cases of coronavirus in Colnbrook immigration removal centre.
The Bill would change mental health legislation to patients to be detained and treated with one doctor’s consent, not the current two opinions. And it would allow “extension or removal of time limits”—from the current 28 days under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act and six months under Section 3.
This is a threat to the rights of people who suffer from mental distress.
The Tories also want to water-down the Care Act 2014, which aims to prevent sets outs local authorities obligations to safeguarding adults at risk of abuse or neglect
The move would allow local authorities prioritise the services they offer”. The government admits that this would be “even if this means not meeting everyone’s assessed needs in full or delaying some assessments”.
There are further dangers.
The bill also means that those who have recently retired from the NHS and social services can be called in to work. But it says nothing about providing the necessary resources to ease the burden on the NHS.
The government has said that emergency powers will not last for more than two years.
But it is difficult to tell when the coronavirus crisis will come to an end.
And if the Tories can hand themselves the powers outlined in the bill, then there is no guarantee that they will not extend that period of time as they see fit.
Any attempts by the government to hand themselves extra repressive powers must be resisted. A bill tackling coronavirus must work to protect those who are the most vulnerable in society – not give the Tories more power to isolate and punish them.
We should all be fighting for legislation that guarantees the safety of migrants and workers, as well as those forced to self-isolate.