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Priti Patel

Priti Patel. Photo: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street / Flickr, license linked at bottom of article

The vile inhumanity of the Tories trying to send refugee boats back across the Channel is part of creating a scapegoat for the cuts they're inflicting, argues Yonas Makoni

Priti Patel is enveloped in another scandal, as she hits out at France for failing to stop migrants from crossing the English Channel and threatens to send intercepted migrants back. While there are doubts about her capacity to implement this plan - which would be in violation of both the UN Geneva convention on refugees and international maritime law - this would make the Channel crossing even more dangerous for migrants and doubtlessly lead to lost lives.

For those who struggle to keep up with the Home Secretary’s near-constant outpourings of racist bile, it’s worth recalling the immediate political context to these proposals. In recent months, Patel has come under fire from Tory backbenchers for failing to reduce the number of migrants crossing the Channel into Britain.

In July, she struck a deal with France, giving them £55m to police the border and prevent migrants from making the journey. Having completely failed to reduce the number of asylum seekers, despite pledging to make the crossing “unviable”, Patel is now in a shaky position. Discontent is on the rise among Tory MPs and far-right figures like Nigel Farage and there are even rumours of the Home Secretary being removed in a potential cabinet reshuffle next week.

Unfortunately for Patel, lashing out at France will do her no good. As she herself noted in July, France was loyally living up to the agreement but had been blindsided by “a complete change in modus operandi in terms of the crossings”. Rather than coming mostly from Calais, “there was now a “widespread dispersal” of launches along the entire French coastline.”

Is it not to be expected that refugees, desperate for even a semblance of a stable and secure life and experienced in evading state repression, should find ways around this newest scheme by the Home Secretary? The Tories are obsessed with portraying refugees as ‘chancers’ and ‘criminals’ that can be kept away with ‘deterrents’ such as potential prison sentences and deportations. The fact is, however, that none of this will affect any refugee’s decision to migrate or cross the Channel.

If the British government wants to reduce the number of refugees, it would be far better off putting an end to its imperial exploits in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen, ending its pillaging of poor countries and helping to create the conditions for an egalitarian world economy. And if it wants to cut off people smugglers it would do much better to create safe and legal routes to asylum for refugees.

The reason this does not happen is because the government is far more interested in projecting a ‘tough on immigration’ bravado and sowing division than reducing the volume of migration, helping migrants or (god forbid) improving the conditions that cause people to seek refuge in the first place.

While the ruling elite plays these cynical games, migrant lives are lost, racism is fuelled at home and the welfare state continues to be hollowed out. Let’s drop this charade and direct our anger at people like Patel instead.

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