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The UK Border at Heathrow Airport

The UK Border at Heathrow Airport. Photo: Danny Howard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

The Home Office's new Nationality and Borders Bill exemplifies the racism at the heart of the government's immigration policy, writes Jamal Elaheebocus

The Home Office’s vicious assault on migrants never ceases. Priti Patel is on the offensive again with the new Nationality and Borders Bill, which gives the government licence to imprison anyone who “knowingly arrives in the United Kingdom without valid entry clearance” and criminalises those like the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) who rescue migrants in the Channel. It has passed its second reading in Parliament last week. 

As part of her offensive, the Home Secretary has announced that £55 million will be handed over to France to fund yet another clampdown on small-boat crossings. The funding, part of a package agreed with the French interior minister, will be used for patrols across wider areas of the northern coast of France, surveillance technology and investment in border control infrastructure. 

The deal has sparked outrage among some Tory MPs, who believe that France should be paying for border patrols. Unsurprisingly, they have no qualms about the malicious process of preventing desperate people from arriving in the UK which will be ramped up with the extra funding.

The deal comes at around the same time as the number of migrants crossing the channel to the UK has increased. Over 700 people crossed into the UK last Monday and Tuesday and 550 attempted to do so last Sunday.

This year has already seen more migrants cross the channel, almost 8,500 more than in the whole of 2020. Whenever the number of migrants crossing the channel increases, the establishment inevitably turns to racist tropes and scapegoating. 

This time is no different. The Tories have used the increase in migrant crossings to once again demonise and scapegoat migrants, introduce new cruel measures and complain of a backlog of asylum claims which is entirely of their own making as they have cut staff numbers and funding.

However, they fail to consider several things. The first is that the number of migrants who attempt to come to the UK is exceptionally low. Many are stuck in refugee camps in the countries neighbouring the ones they have fled, and many are unable to make the dangerous crossing over the channel. The UK takes in very few asylum seekers compared to other EU countries, and therefore even if there is an increase, the claims of a ‘migrant crisis’ are always exaggerated.

Secondly, they never consider the reasons why large numbers of migrants are crossing the channel via extremely dangerous routes, risking their lives to get here.

The fact is that many migrants continue to flee wars and conflict in the Middle East – in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya. These are wars in which Britain has, almost without exception, been involved in or supported. These people have suffered years of misery and destruction to their homes and communities as a result of Western intervention and have had no choice but to flee such dire situations.

Much of the ruling class also likes to claim that EU countries are safe for migrants and therefore that they should settle in the first EU country they arrive in. However, for many, these countries simply aren’t safe and many have families in the UK who they have been separated from and need to be reunited with.

In part, the reason why the Home Office pursues these cruel and inhumane policies is because it refuses to consider migrants as human beings fleeing desperate situations. The extra funding to France and the government’s refusal to fund safe passages means that more migrants will be stuck separated from their families and forced to live in dire conditions in mainland Europe.

It is yet another case of racism and malice at the heart of government, part of a system where migrants are prevented from arriving in the UK and criminalised if they make it. While many are deported, those who are granted asylum are scapegoated by the government and press.

The Home Office continues to throw away millions of pounds on cruel border control strategies that force migrants to take extremely dangerous routes using smugglers, who force them to pay thousands before loading them into unsafe dinghies. 

What is needed instead is safe routes for migrants to arrive in the UK and a humane, well-funded asylum system which does not judge people on their economic worth nor criminalise them but allows those who want to live a dignified life in this country to do so.

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