British unions call for the rights of migrants and refugees

12 March 2023: As the British economy crashes the government looks for people to blame and refugees pay the price.

Last November PCS and Care4Calais launched a proposal for a Safe Passage for Refugees. Since then, they asked for a meeting with the Home Office to discuss it, but they never received any reply.

Differently to the government’s plans, this proposal would drastically reduce the number of people forced to make the dangerous journey in small boats, break the people smugglers’ business model, and address the UK humanitarian obligations treating refugees with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

Refugees would apply online from any European country for a Safe Passage Visa valid for travel purposes only. On arrival in the UK they would claim asylum (as 98% of those arriving from Channel crossings do) under the normal asylum process.

The current schemes for Ukrainian refugees use a similar visa system and no Ukrainians have crossed on small boats or drowned in the Channel. When safe and legal routes exist people use them, they don’t choose to risk their life and pay smugglers. This is quite obvious and the experience of the Ukrainian schemes offers clear evidence of it.

On the contrary, cruel and unfair measures that criminalise refugees for (being forced to) “illegal” arrivals don’t lead to diminish the number of Channel crossings. The Rwanda deportation plan has never been a “deterrent” for new arrivals, as the government demagogically publicised it to be. Since it was announced (on 14 April 2022), the number of Channel crossings has hit an all-time high.

The government anti-refugees measures don’t aim to deter people from making dangerous journeys, but to deter people from claiming asylum in the UK and the ‘illegal migration bill’ presented last Tuesday in Parliament is the latest cruel attack against refugees.

Tuesday 7 March 2023 will go down in history and should always be remembered. It’s the day that a British Home Secretary stood up in the House of Commons and stated that people seeking asylum in Britain would be detained for as long as it takes to throw them back! The popular BBC sport presenter Garry Lineker denounced in a tweet the cruelty of this policy and the hate language used to present it. The Tory did not like his comments and BBC, showing a worrying lack of independence from the government, suspended him from his job. Many were outraged by the BBC’ s decision and a petition to reinstate Gary Lineker in his job has already reached about 200,000 signatures. We hope that he will be reinstated in his position, but this event is a further, alarming attack to our democracy.

We need to increase the mobilisation against this government that attacks those who criticise its policy, while expressing “sympathy” with those attacking asylum seeker hotels and fuels the rise of racism and the far right in the country.

13 unions, including some of the biggest ones, condemned the government’s complicity in the violent riots against asylum seekers hotels that took place in several areas of the country. The union between the workers movement and the antiracist movement has significantly developed in the last period. A pledge for the rights of all migrant workers recently launched by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) have already being signed by more than 20 unions, and the launch of the antiracist network promoted by the Trade Union Conference (TUC), with the first meeting in London few months ago, was attended by over 50 trade unionists and representatives of many organisations including Status Now Network.

We need to further develop this alliance and mobilise together to defeat the government’s attacks and the hate culture that it is spreading in the country.