Protesters took to the streets to oppose the Tory government's racist and inhumane plan to deport refugees to Rwanda, reports Shabbir Lakha
Several hundred people gathered outside the Home Office at short notice on Thursday evening to protest against the government's new plan to send refugees arriving "illegally" in the UK to Rwanda.
The protest, called by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and supported by Stand up to Racism, Jewish Voice for Labour and others, was loud and angry and demanded the immediate reversal of the racist and inhumane policy. The deal with the Rwandan government will see the Tories deporting vulnerable refugees and detaining them over 4,000 miles away in Rwanda.
Speakers from a number of campaigning organisations spoke of the blatant double standards with the government's support for Ukrainian refugees and the fact that the policy will be more expensive than letting refugees stay. The timing of the announcement as a means to divert from partygate was also not lost on anyone.
This policy is clearly not based on economic reasons, and it is certainly not intended to stop human traffickers as Boris Johnson has claimed. The Tories closing down legal routes and collaborating with the French government to destroy refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk is what has driven refugees into the hands of people smugglers to begin with. As the tragic deaths in the Channel last year showed, the Tories are forcing refugees into taking increasingly dangerous routes. This policy will only make the situation worse.
This plan is an extension of the hostile environment which has been massively reinforced under Priti Patel’s tenure as Home Secretary. It serves the same purpose it always has: to divide working people and to scapegoat refugees for the failures of the government.
Boris Johnson is adamant that the first flight is scheduled within the next six weeks despite the question of its legality. The policy is unlikely to be lawful under domestic or international law and will be faced with legal challenges in the coming weeks and months.
But the movement must raise the opposition on the streets if we want to defeat this plan. Opinion polls have shown that a majority of the public oppose the plan and the recent outpouring of solidarity with the people of Ukraine has shown that a huge number of people welcome refugees. It’s time to mobilise to stop the racist attack on vulnerable people and to not let Boris Johnson get away with his crimes.
Thursday’s protest outside the Home Office and the protest planned in Glasgow on Saturday will be important steps in mobilising against the Tories. Trade unions have issued statements in clear support of refugees and the TUC national demonstration on 18 June will be an opportunity to bring together the opposition to the attacks on the working class and on refugees.
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Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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