THESE REFUGEES in east London last year didnt get a warm welcome from New Labour
THE TORY press are rallying to the side of the New Labour government over its scapegoating plans against asylum seekers. The Mail on Sunday ran an anti-asylum story last weekend under the title "The One Way Ticket to Benefit Britain". The article talked about the "thin blue line" of immigration officers holding out against a supposed "flood" of asylum seekers.
These newspapers are seeking to put myths and lies into people's minds about this country being deluged by asylum seekers. They are against any watering down of New Labour's harsh anti-asylum bill, which returns to the House of Commons this month. This bill is designed to persecute asylum seekers who manage to reach Britain. It has been condemned by all aid agencies and refugee charities. Government whips fear there may be a backbench revolt by Labour MPs who object to the section of the bill which will drive asylum seekers into poverty.
All asylum seekers will be put onto a separate social security system if the bill goes through, which means they will only get 70 percent of the pittance paid to other claimants. Most of this will be in vouchers for "essential goods". The government will only give asylum seekers £1 a day in cash for adults, with just 50p for children. Children seeking asylum will be taken out of the Children Act so the government can treat them worse and not break child protection laws.
There are reports that home secretary Jack Straw may increase the adult rate to £2 a day to try and buy off the rebels. But the prospect of such a "bribe" has angered the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. A spokesperson for the organisation, Sherman Carroll, urged the government to ditch the bill altogether in a letter to the Guardian last week. Carroll said, "The government's virtually cashless support package is designed, in its own words, 'to have a significant disincentive effect'. That is, the hardship caused to torture survivors and other vulnerable refugees is intended to deter asylum seekers from coming to Britain."
The government's "get tough" stance on asylum seekers is encouraging vicious scapegoating. The Dover Express newspaper ran an article last year which called asylum seekers from Eastern Europe "human sewage". After this and other disgusting articles, the newspaper's editor, Nick Hudson, was threatened by the police with prosecution for incitement to racial hatred. The police apparently forwarded the case to the Crown Prosecution Service which disgracefully failed to act.
Nick Hudson was behind another article attacking refugees last month in the Folkestone Herald, which is part of Adscene, the same newspaper group as the Dover Express. The article was titled "They're Like The Mafia", and was about six asylum seekers supposedly arrested in Folkestone. The paper's revelled in a classic bit of scapegoating, saying, "Why should the one parent families lose points and slip DOWN the housing list in preference to what many believe are NOT genuine asylum seekers?" But the story was a put up. The paper had blown a small incident out of proportion. There were no police with riot gear, as the paper implied, and no asylum seeker has been charged with any offence.
NO. There are an estimated 13 million refugees around the world. Most of them are "displaced" into neighbouring countries. Britain received a mere 0.05 percent of them in 1997. Germany receives the largest number of asylum cases-100,000 in 1997 compared to just 30,000 in Britain.
NO. Over the country as a whole there is an average of 233 people per square kilometre. The density in Germany is 6 percent higher, and in Japan 40 percent higher. Britain's population of around 58.4 million is hardly growing at all. In fact in 1994 England experienced a net loss of population. People say that London is too overcrowded. Yet in 1994 the biggest fall of population in England took place in the south east, which lost around 16,000 people. Since 1971 there has been a sharp decrease in the number of births in Britain and there is an ageing population. This combination means that in the next century Britain will need to find a new source of labour to keep up the workforce. Asylum seekers could provide that labour if the government allowed them to.
NO. Asylum seekers are not to blame for unemployment. It is the bosses who close down factories and throw workers on the scrap heap. There is no link between immigration and unemployment. In the 1930s there were virtually no asylum seekers, yet millions of British workers had their jobs taken away during the Depression years. By contrast in the 1950s and 60s there was immigration from areas such as the Caribbean and South Asia. At that time there was virtually full employment.
NO. There are plenty of rich people in Britain who New Labour should tax to make the funds available to look after everyone-whether they are asylum seekers or people with disabilities. Why can't the 800,000 empty homes across Britain be opened up to asylum seekers and other homeless people? Studies show that asylum seekers tend to be well educated. Yet they are not allowed to work in this country while their claims are being processed. The NHS now is short of doctors. So why can't asylum seekers who are doctors be allowed to work? If refugees were allowed to get jobs they would pay national insurance and tax along with everyone else-in other words, contribute to the national income.
THE Daily Mail claimed last month that the number of asylum seekers is mounting up and that "there were 76,570 people living in the UK awaiting an asylum decision". The paper quoted the right wing head of the Immigration Services Union, John Tincey, saying, "If something is not done soon, then this summer could finally see the dam burst. We only need one tiny push in numbers and we'll be totally unable to cope."
But the Mail did not say that many of those have been waiting for over eight years for a decision on their asylum claim. And a third of those seeking asylum are given refugee status or leave to remain after their case is heard. The backlog has nothing to do with "bogus" asylum seekers. It is because massive bureaucracy put in place by the Tories has ground to a halt.
The Mail refuses to say that in April the number of people seeking asylum in Britain actually DROPPED from 5,060 in March to 4,905. This was despite NATO's war in the Balkans. So in a world ravaged by civil war, brutal regimes and economic collapse, less than 5,000 people sought refuge in Britain with its population of nearly 60 million.
MANY OF the Kosovan Albanians airlifted into Scotland and the north of England have moved down to London. This puts into sharp relief the government's plans for asylum seekers laid out in its new bill. Alan Forbes, a spokesperson for Glasgow City Council, told the Scotsman, "About 100 people from Scotland and the north of England have gone to London." This is not surprising, as most refugees gravitate to London where their exiled communities are concentrated. They can get sympathetic advice from refugee charities and specialist legal advisers.
Yet what the Kosovan Albanians from Scotland and northern England have done would be outlawed under the new Asylum Bill because they will be made to live in special "reception centres" dotted around Britain, many in remote areas. If asylum seekers leave the centres the government will declare them intentionally homeless and cut off their benefits, leaving them to starve. When refugee groups criticised this, Jack Straw justified his plan, saying, "If you mess about and you place yourself in a position where you can no longer receive support, that is your decision."