By Isabel Ringrose
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Rishi Sunak announces two more barges to lock up refugees

The Tories' racist scapegoating of refugees is giving confidence to the far right and fascists
Issue 2858
A picture of Rishi Sunak on a UK border guard boat

Sunak poses on a border force boat on Monday (Picture: Downing Street/Flickr)

Rishi Sunak is doubling down on his promise to “stop the boats” of refugees trying to make it to safety in Britain. He announced plans for two more barges to house around 1,000 asylum seekers at a press conference in Dover, Kent, on Monday.

Back in December the new prime minister made one of his top five priorities for Britain to “stop illegal immigration”. On Monday Sunak gave an update six months on, and with the Illegal Migration Bill going through the Commons, on how he plans to fulfil his promise.

It comes weeks after net migration figures reached a record high at the end of last December at 606,000. Sunak is now under pressure to find a scapegoat—and he’ll blame refugees. That’s despite just one in 12 non-EU migrants of the 925,000 that came to Britain last year seeking asylum. As well as her “dream” to deport refugees to Rwanda, home secretary Suella Braverman says it’s her “ultimate aspiration” to get new migration down to tens of thousands.

Sunak gave an update on what he says needs to be done to stop the Channel crossings, what is happening with the backlog and how to reduce use of hotels. An agreement with Albania last December means “failed asylum seekers” and “foreign offenders” will be sent back. But Sunak is under fire from his own party because only “hundreds” of Albanians have since been deported.

A new three-year £63 million deal with France in November was to fund detention centres and more law enforcement. Sunak also set up a Small Boats Operational Command with the military and border forces to intercept boats and work on intelligence.

In addition immigration minister Robert Jenrick claimed the asylum system is “riddled with abuse”. He defended making adult male refugees share rooms in hotels with each other as “completely fair and reasonable”. That came after 40 refugees refused to use a hotel in Pimlico in London after they were told they’d have to share four to a room.

Solidarity is crucial. Campaigners showed their support for refugees across Britain last weekend. SUTR Dorset said, “Refugees welcome, no to the prison barge” at the site of the Tories’ new ship to hold refugees.

Meanwhile in Erskine, anti-fascists outnumbered fascists from Homeland by 60 to 25 outside the Muthu Glasgow River Hotel. The week before over 400 anti-fascists turned up to defend the refugee hotel, but no fascists or racists showed up.

And anti-fascists in Llanelli, south Wales, organised a counter protest to the far right Voice of Wales which is campaigning against refugees being kept in the Stradey Park Hotel. Voice of Wales has started to hold regular protests with local people who accept racist ideas.

Sunak will hit hard on refugees crossing the Channel to try to win support for next year’s general election. Anti-racists must work harder than ever to overcome the vile lies that the Tories put out.

  • Oppose far right Yorkshire Patriots, Sat 10 June, 12 noon, Victoria Gardens, The Headrow, Leeds LS1 3AH

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