By Saana Taussi
Migrants and refugees continue to be systematically treated as disposable by the British government and are as such repeatedly put into vulnerable positions. Rishi Sunak has emphasized that the stopping of people trying to cross the Channel in small boats is his top focus. This commitment to stopping immigrants from entering the country is a priority over the fact that some of these individuals may be returned to hazardous conditions. This was reflected in the Tories recent deal in 2022 to deport refugees to Rwanda, dismissing the realistic danger this potentially puts refugees under. Paired alongside the stricter migration policies in the context of a Tory Brexit which added pressure to turn Britain into a fortress.
The dismissal of migrants is highlighted by the reality that the new migration policies following Brexit ended up disrupting low-paid industries such as hospitality and tourism, as these industries often rely on the super-exploitation of migrant workers. Similarly the EU has its own fortress Europe policy, spending billions enforcing its borders including a policy which has led to thousands of tragic deaths in the Mediterranean sea.
Furthermore, those fleeing to Britain to seek refuge and who are typically stuck within the asylum application process for months or even years at a time. Asylum seekers are banned from working and consequently often forced into poverty – even though reports show that letting asylum seekers work whilst waiting for a conclusion could benefit the economy by millions each year. Immigrants then are often left stuck in a dysfunctional system within which they have very little autonomy. In Northern Ireland it was recently reported that several pregnant immigrant women have been held in the Larne House, Northern Ireland’s immigration detention center, since 2016 even though the detention of pregnant individuals should only happen under extreme circumstance and is not deemed acceptable. The conditions and protocols in the center have been described as otherwise oppressive.
The government’s anti-migrant and refugee narrative which they call “the hostile environment” works to disguise these violations and normalizes racist and divisive attitudes which are easy for the far-right to utilize, as seen recently in the south of Ireland. The systemic hostility towards migrants and refugees enforced by the government must be called out by a united movement of working-class people fighting racist division and demanding jobs, housing, services, and safety for all.