Prime minister Rishi Sunak (Picture: Simon Walker)

 

With an election ­potentially looming this year the Tories will stoke up racism in an effort to win votes. Rishi Sunak will use hatred towards refugees, migrants and Muslims in particular—and Keir Starmer will offer no alternative, and he will even seek to outdo the government.

The Tories’ racism has already had deadly consequences. In December a refugee on the prison barge Bibby Stockholm, moored in Dorset, died of suspected suicide.

Up to 300 people live on the barge in the Portland Port. The Tories want to cram 500 people on-board—more than double its capacity—for months at a time.

Sunak also attempted to keep secret the reality of the prison barge’s legality and conditions. Then he changed his mind and decided to publish it, before deleting it from the government website.

And, also in December, another refugee drowned in the Channel trying to cross to Britain, while another person was taken to a hospital in Calais in a life-threatening condition.

In 2023 nine people died while trying to cross the Channel. Refugee deaths in hotels, barges and the Channel are all preventable. But for the Tories, and Labour, being as tough on vulnerable refugees as possible is the priority—regardless of the consequences.

It’s rooted in a false belief that ordinary people hate refugees and migrants, and blame them for the problems in society. Part of the Tories’ plan is to cover up their own failures by scapegoating migrants. And attacking refugees to win electoral successes is a trend happening across Europe.

Right wing governments and oppositions are taking an increasingly hard-line stance over borders. In the meantime, even before an election is called, Sunak awaits the return of the Rwanda bill to parliament. 

Despite Tory splits before Christmas, Sunak managed to get the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill pushed through its second reading.

This was an attempt by Sunak to prove that Rwanda is a safe country, and to by‑pass the courts when it comes to deportation appeals.

But Sunak can’t rest easily. The bill is now at committee stage where amendments can be suggested. Some Tories want the bill to be harsher, and see a plane full of refugees taken to Rwanda as soon as possible.

There are also Tories that want the bill to be softer—so they can also see a plane full fly to Rwanda but without it being held up and delayed in the courts again.

Anti-racists have to ­continue to make a stand against the entire Rwanda deportation scheme, every racist attack by the Tories and every attempt to use racism as an electoral weapon

Sign-up for Stand Up to Racism’s workplace conference on Sunday 11 February, details at standuptoracism.org.uk. March against racism for UN anti-racism day in London and Glasgow on Saturday 16 March, and Cardiff on 17 March

Fortress Europe will be even more brutal

Days before Christmas, the European Union (EU) passed a new set of killer laws to “overhaul” its asylum system.

The 20 December agreement between the European Commission, European Parliament and member states looks to stop refugees from claiming asylum.

The measures limit the number of people coming to the EU, and organises how to share the cost of hosting refugees. 

It also includes speedier vetting, creating border detention centres and accelerated deportations.

Under the new measures, many who arrive “illegally”, including those rescued at sea, will be detained. 

Children as young as six years old will also have their fingerprints taken. EU countries can also define “mass influx” to avoid human rights obligations to accept refugees.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said after the law passed that “migration is a common European challenge—today’s decision will allow us to manage it together”.

Although the law still needs to be approved, the reality will be prison camps at EU borders, and more deaths as people desperately try to reach safety.

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