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Refugees Welcome protest, Photo: John Englart / Flickr / cropped from original / licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Refugees Welcome protest, Photo: John Englart / Flickr / cropped from original / licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Tory government are once again scapegoating vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers to cover up for their own failings, argues Lucy Nichols

As we plunge deeper into economic recession, more of us will lose jobs and houses.  There will likely be even more cuts to education, welfare and other public services. The Conservatives’ calamitous handling of the pandemic is to blame for this. To list the government’s many failings throughout this crisis would take hours and hours, but the unifying theme is that working people have suffered the most from these failures.

The Tories are keen to shift this blame and to absolve themselves from wrongdoing.  Public Health England has been blamed for the failure of track and trace, teachers were responsible for schools not opening in June, and now Ofqual has been blamed for the classist algorithm that decided A Level grades.

Now, the Tories have continued demonising another demographic: migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. This year, roughly 4,000 people – largely from the Middle East and Africa – have crossed the English Channel and landed in Britain.

Though the Tory government and mainstream media would have us believe that this indicates an unstoppable ‘wave’ of migrants invading the UK to rape, murder and pillage, this marks only a 0.0067% increase in our total population.

Tragically, many people have died trying to make this treacherous passage.  This week Abdulfatah Hamdallah – a 22 year old from Sudan – was found on a beach in France, having drowned crossing the sea in an inflatable dinghy. He had been refused asylum in France and decided to try for safety in Britain.  This has, of course, been met with outrage across the UK and France.  Priti Patel responded by blaming people smugglers.

The undeniable truth is that the very small amount of people migrating to the UK do not pose a threat to anything other than the ridiculous notion of white British homogeneity.

They are not stealing any jobs and they do not arrive as some sort of conspiracy to convert the whole of Britain to Islam.  People seek refuge in Britain for various reasons, but no one chooses to risk their life on the Channel when safer options exist in their countries of origin.

However, it suits the Tories pretty well if they can manage to convince enough working class people that migrants are the reason for a lack of jobs, housing, and vital public services. If Priti Patel can somehow convince us that migrants are using up all of our resources, perhaps we won’t blame her government for its failure to properly fund these resources.

Patel would like us to forget that it is virtually impossible to legally seek asylum in the UK, thus forcing people to try and get here in a myriad of life-threatening ways.  She would instead have us believe that any migrant deaths are an issue of personal responsibility.

The claim is that, when someone loses their life trying to cross the Channel, it is not the fault of brutal immigration laws, but evil smugglers who force these people to cross the channel in unsafe dinghies.

It is crucial we see through this. The racist policies of Tory Britain and fortress Europe are responsible for every tragic loss of life in the English Channel and the Mediterranean Sea.

The right and the mainstream media also work very hard to demonise migrants once they have arrived in the UK.  They employ Islamophobic, orientalist and racist ideas to convince us that migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are somehow inferior to us.  Ironically, it is often these same ideas that are used to justify imperialist endeavours in the countries the have come from.  The same imperialist endeavours that force these people to flee in the first place.

These ideas have a body count.  When they take hold in Britain, the state has the power to make harmful and racist laws that ultimately lead to even more deaths in the Channel.

The British state is a deeply racist one that relies on the subjugation of Black people and people of colour.  Migrants are in no way safe from this systemic xenophobia, and of course they suffer as a result of it.

Solidarity with migrants is therefore absolutely crucial. Instead of letting the establish divide and conquer the working class along racial lines, a unified struggle is crucial for any success in the fight against the Tory government.

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