Refugees and the UK: Welcome to Blighty, Now Piss Off

United Kingdom home secretary Priti Patel’s proposed changes to that country’s asylum law are not a victimless crime. She has advanced from bullying her own staff to bullying governments of poor nations full of brown people without her privileged background.

Patel wants the power to punish states refusing re-entry to the asylum-seekers she wants to return (i.e. anyone without an iron-clad, documented case). She wants to incarcerate asylum seekers offshore, since that went so swimmingly for Australia. Fantasising about it in her well-heated London pied-à-terre, she images bracing months-long spells in unheated Portakabins in The Falklands during the northern hemisphere summer.

Patel’s is a classic political move to raise her profile before a possible future party leadership bid. After all, people have got to wise up to the fact that Boris is a toxic idiot at some point, she reasons rightly. So. Pick a vulnerable community and label them a problem. Apply clichés such as ‘unfit for purpose’ liberally, and then… Sucker punch! Gallantly ride in and smack up the peasants with new and harsher regulation to show your macho flex. Polish off the performance, for that is what it is, by claiming ‘victory’ over the ‘problem’ with selective statistical examples, whatever kind of car crash it turns out to be.

Thus Patel rails against people smugglers, and moans that Britain’s asylum system is ‘broken’ and being ‘gamed’ by ruthless, cash-rich young men who push aside more worthy women and children as they board coyote boats in Normandy.

Migrant/asylum seeker boat crossings have been larger than usual in recent summers, but overall inflows are nothing like the crisis that Patel is making them out to be (tens, rather than hundreds, of thousands per year, with fewer than 35,000 asylum applications in 2019). With a little more funding and bureaucratic love, the asylum system wouldn’t be ‘broken’ and could work quite efficiently, as it’s not that large an issue compared to, say, the global pandemic of Covid-19. Political will is all it would take, and a rounding number in a spreadsheet compared to the cash Boris Johnson’s cabinet herd of back-scratching non-entities have splurged with abandon over the last fourteen months.

And enough with the sophistry, already. Claiming that pushy young men with bulging wallets are queue-jumping is not so much a distortion as an annihilation of the truth. Extended families pool scarce resources or take out loans from sharks to send one family member to Europe, whether as migrant or refugee. Since normally they can only afford one ‘golden ticket’, they eschew sending women and children on the perilous journey. Fit young males are the only appropriate choice to endure the inevitable horrors and indignities. As Exiled Writers’ Inc. said, ‘The bill should exercise compassion rather than criminalise refugees simply because they are forced to deploy unconventional methods to enter the country. The reason for the dangerous and illegal journeys into the UK is the draconian system that prevents refugees from entering this country through legal means.’

Welcome to Blighty.

John Clamp writes for Maqshosh.