From Shamima Begum to asylum seekers, why does it seem the UK’s default position is cruelty?
Whenever a politician wheels out the ‘proud record’ line, I’m always dubious.
We’re told that Britain has a ‘proud track record’ when it comes to immigration and welcoming refugees, we should be ‘proud’ of our welfare system, or ‘take pride’ in the NHS and those who work within it.
But taking pride in our achievements is only valid if we can back it up with supportive evidence. Without that, pride is just another deadly sin.
On the immigration issue alone – 200 asylum-seeking children have gone missing after being placed in hotels run by the Home Office, while politicians seem quick to seek to scapegoat those risking life and limb to come to the UK.
Pride? Shame feels more appropriate.
When people are feeling desperate about the state of our country, that frustration often leads to anger. But we must ensure our anger points in the right direction.
In an interview this week, Home Secretary Suella Braverman addressed recent violent rioting outside hotels for asylum seekers. Despite admitting ‘violence, harassment or intimidation’ is ‘not an acceptable way to voice your concerns or frustrations’, she had a pretty compassionate response to rioters.
‘We are all frustrated with the situation we are currently finding ourselves in,’ she explained. ‘It is clear and undeniable there are really, really serious pressures in communities and saying so does not make you racist or bigoted.’
Yes, we’re frustrated. Yes, there are serious pressures in communities. But if you’re going to refer to asylum seekers as a homogenous ‘invasion’ – like you did just a few months ago – then don’t act surprised when the racists and bigots turn up to the hotels you arranged for refugees to stay in.
It’s as if these Tory frontbenchers forget that their party has been calling the shots for the past 13 years. Are they suffering from collective political amnesia? Or is their default position just one of cruelty?
Our frustration should be with those in power, not those who are subject to it. Serious pressures on housing, public services and the cost-of-living are problems that weren’t created, nor can be solved, by refugees confined to hotels for the foreseeable future.
The Home Office’s piss-poor management and lack of long-term planning has led to further cruelty
Perhaps if she had spent a little less time dreaming about that plane taking off to Rwanda and a little more time ensuring that there was sufficient infrastructure to process asylum claims, then she would have something to be proud of.
So foiled are her original plans that the Home Office has taken the decision to bypass proper asylum processing and replace it with an 11-page questionnaire in order to clear 12,000 claims in a ‘legacy’ backlog of 92,000 unprocessed applicants.
Meanwhile, Braverman pledged to do ‘whatever it takes’ to deter people from crossing the English Channel, including the possibility of leaving the European Convention of Human Rights.
‘We always treat everyone in a humane way,’ Braverman wrote just months ago. Nothing says ‘humane’ like ripping up a person’s human rights.
Earlier this week, Shamima Begum lost her appeal to regain British citizenship. A girl who says she was groomed online by ISIS at 15 years old and smuggled into Syria as a sex-slave.
She watched three of her own children die. The last child died in a refugee camp, after her failed appeal to be brought home.
If you can’t find it in your heart to accept that she was groomed and manipulated by a sophisticated group of terrorists, then what about her infant child who may have lived, should they have been brought back to UK soil?
If only Sajid Javid – then Home Secretary – had found the compassion to accept that a British girl should face the consequences of her actions in the country that raised her.
Today is also the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but 4,295 Ukrainian families face homelessness as their Home For Ukraine placement ends, according to Sky News. Short-term government planning has left thousands of vulnerable people without a secure home.
We should genuinely be proud of all those who offered up space in their homes for refugees, and provided them with support during a traumatic time.
But does the Government deserve a pat on the back for doing the bare minimum by facilitating a short-term solution without a long term plan? I don’t think so.
‘Operation Warm Welcome’ was the name of one initiative created by the Home Office for those fleeing Afghanistan. It was a resettlement scheme designed to ensure that Afghan refugees received healthcare, education and employment support in order to fully integrate into society.
Earlier this month, 40 families who had spent over a year living in a hotel in Kensington were told they had just one week to relocate to Wetherby, leaving schools and jobs behind.
First appear at From Shamima Begum to asylum seekers, why does it seem the UK’s default position is cruelty?