Some 1.5 million people were estimated to have fled Ukraine in just ten days last week. The Tory government is using the new wave of refugees as an opportunity to slam the door shut in the face of people in the most desperate circumstances.
Home secretary Priti Patel claimed to be “doing everything possible” to process Ukrainian refugees. Yet just 50 visas had been handed out by Monday morning. It’s not as if the demand isn’t there—some 5,535 applications had been submitted. Patel’s inaction is echoed throughout the cabinet. Boris Johnson squashed speculation that Britain might imminently open a new route for Ukrainian refugees to enter the country. He insisted there could not be a system “where people can come into the UK without any checks or any controls at all”.
Dominic Raab, deputy prime minister, made a disgraceful attempt to whip up anti-refugee sentiment. He said the Tory government was not going to “just open the door” because it would hurt “genuine refugees”. These latest manoeuvres come as British and French governments battle over who is to take responsibility for refugees attempting to cross the Channel.
So Gerald Darmanin, the French interior minister criticised the British government for its “lack of humanity”. But Dermanin’s warnings aren’t borne out of a genuine fear for refugees. He wants Britain to take responsibility for policing the border. It’s not just on Britain’s shores where refugees are being met with racist resistance.
Israeli interior minister Ayelet Shaked said that over 90 percent of Ukrainians reaching Israel’s borders are not Jewish and therefore continued immigration “cannot go on”. And African refugees in Ukraine are being blocked at the border while trying to reach safety. One man, Osarumen, said he, his family and other refugees were told to get off a bus about to cross the border. He was told, “No blacks” and despite challenging this, military officers ejected them from the vehicle.
Black refugees who have managed to flee now face peril when seeking visas and rights to remain in European Union states. Many face the risk of being sent back to the country they initially fled. The slogan “refugees welcome” has to mean all refugees—regardless of race, religion or nationality. The borders must be opened to give people the safety they desperately need.
The peril facing ordinary people, and the racist pushback from leaders the world over, underline the importance of building a combative anti-racist movement. Mass protests form part of this fight, and anti-racists will be taking part in the Stand Up To Racism mobilisations in London and Glasgow on 19 March and in Cardiff the following day. Anti-war activists, students, workers, socialists and trade unionists should join them.
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