By Isabel Ringrose
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2748

Tory plan to rip up refugee rights won’t stop people taking deadly routes

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Issue 2748
Priti Patel has ramped up repression of refugees in the English Channel
Priti Patel has ramped up repression of refugees in the English Channel (Pic: Priti Patel on Twitter )

Tory home secretary Priti Patel has announced plans to make it even harder for refugees to make it to safety in Britain.

Her plan, outlined on Wednesday, would make it easier for the Home Office to refuse asylum to undocumented refugees. Patel boasted, “For the first time, whether people enter the UK legally or illegally will have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses.

“And on their status in the UK if that claim is successful.”

Those who arrive through “legal resettlement routes” will be given immediate indefinite leave to remain.

But refugees who are forced to take illegal routes into Britain, such as in boats or refrigerated vans, face a different future. If they passed through a “safe country”, it will also impact on their claim’s success.

This rips up basic rights in the United Nations’ 1951 refugee convention, which says there’s no blanket rules banning refugees passing through safe countries.

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When deportation isn’t possible, refugees will be given a temporary status with limited access to rights. They could be held outside Britain while their application is processed.

Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) co-convenor Weyman Bennett said, “This is Priti Patel yet again ramping up hostility towards asylum seekers.

“Refugees have already lost virtually everything and Patel is now adding to their misery. This measure must be strongly opposed by all who value human rights and seek an end to all forms of racial discrimination internationally.”

Patel’s plan is part of the Tory scapegoating of refugees trapped at Britain’s border in Calais and Dunkirk in northern France.

Refugees trying to make it into Britain are fleeing war, poverty and dictatorship. They are forced to take dangerous and illegal routes because of Britain and the European Union’s (EU) racist border regimes.

Many have to take overloaded dinghies across the Mediterranean Sea, then face police violence and squalor in makeshift camps.

They include people from Iraq and Syria, countries destroyed by imperialist war. Others have fled persecution and hardship in Iran, and Sudan—ruled until recently by a brutal military dictatorship that was part-funded by the EU.


Right wingers claim Britain’s “soft touch” approach to immigration makes it a magnet for refugees, but official figures show this is a lie. In the year ending November 2020, Germany had the highest number of asylum applications in the EU at 120,320 while France had the second highest at 96,030.

In the same period Britain received 35,355 asylum applications—a 20 percent fall on the previous year.

The current rate of arrivals is a third of the all-time record.

Yet nearly 50,000 asylum seekers have been waiting for over six months for an application decision, up from 11,500 three years ago. And appeals are also around one fifth the rate of a decade ago.

Many refugees want to come to Britain because they already have family in Britain or speak English.

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The Tories claim they want to “deter illegal entry by breaking the business model of people smugglers”.

Patel repeatedly referred to a responsibility to “save lives” of those coming to Britain by crossing the channel or in lorries and shipping containers.

Smugglers are small-time gangsters who take advantage of Britain’s racist border regime. The real criminals who enable it are the Tories. Refugees wouldn’t have to rely on traffickers if they enter Britain by safe and legal routes.

Slamming the borders shut and narrowing the legal routes for asylum will not stop vulnerable people attempting to reach safety.

Charity Care4Calais said, “People smugglers are a symptom, not a cause, of a system that does not work.

“No refugee wants to pay a people smuggler and no refugee wants to risk their life in a small boat. The real answer would be to create an alternate safe way for them to claim asylum without having to take these risks.”

Patel’s aim is to create a false division between “good” and “bad refugees”—to reinforce racism against all refugees. 

Anti-racists have to oppose the Tories’ hostile environment and racist immigration system. 

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