The inhumane, deeply harmful and racist Borders and Immigration Act was passed into UK law, 28 April 2022.
During its passage through parliament, the House of Lords (HoL) presented a number of amendments which were rejected by the government, including compatibility with the Refugee Convention. Justifying the government’s rejection of the HOL amendments, Tom Pursglove, Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration, merely said that the government was dissatisfied with them. However, at the final HOL reading, the Labour peers decided to abstain from supporting the amendments and defer to the HOC, so the amendments failed and the Bill was passed in entirety.
We have no illusions in HOL, or the Commons. The HOL make a few noises of protest and then decide to step aside and end even verbal protests against what the Tory government wanted in the first place. For immigrants, activists against oppression and for workers the Lords, in their gowns, are on the side of their oppressors. The two houses make up a bourgeois parliament as a double act that is used to oppress workers. We have to build a workers alternative.
The new asylum and immigration policy, a policy that was already extremely harsh, hostile and racist, is designed to further stir up anti-immigration and anti-refugee attitudes just like Theresa May’s “Go Home or Face Arrest’ billboard vans.
This new Act and policy will deepen the misery of refugees’ lives with an even more brutal asylum system and will reinforce and deepen racism and xenophobia against refugees and against the wider immigrant and Black community.
Divide and criminalise
This disgusting legislation intentionally aims to divide refugees by how they enter the UK – into those who do and those who don’t have visas (i.e. those who are not eligible to enter through a recognised resettlement scheme).
So, anyone who arrives in the UK without a visa to claim asylum or anyone who overstays their visa, will face a potential sentence of four years imprisonment. Which totally ignores the reality that a refugee’s ability to obtain a visa is extraordinarily rare. The most desperate who have to escape persecution by clandestine means will become second-class asylum seekers. So, we now have a two-tier asylum system.
As well as criminalising asylum seekers, this legislation also targets and criminalises humanitarian supporters and volunteers who try to help. That is, if you take an asylum seeker who does not have a visa to a port to claim asylum, you will now face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Second class citizenship
The new scandalous policy hands ministers the power to strip people of British citizenship. Now, for a wide variety of reasons citizenship can, without any notification, be removed. This secret power creates a second-class citizenship for refugees, immigrants, and the children of foreign-born parents – a citizenship that is precarious and conditional.
This immoral and inhumane policy will create in communities a permanent sense of fear and isolation, particularly with recent memories of the Windrush scandal which cruelly and wrongly led to the denial of healthcare and benefits, detentions and deportations of British citizens who were members of the Windrush generation.
Genuinely and intentionally seeking to lie
Priti Patel, Home Secretary, continuously boasted publicly and to the HOL that the new Act would give Border Force officials the power to pushback migrant boats in the Channel and would provide those officials with civil and criminal immunity for deaths or injuries ‘reasonably’ caused during such operations.
However, the actual policy, recently disclosed in a high court judgment, that anyone crossing and wishing to claim asylum in the UK should be escorted to the UK – which is the case of almost everyone forced to take up this method to get to the UK.
The High Court revealed that Patel was intentionally dishonest and misleading, and in breach of the rule of law because the policy states: “Should a migrant request asylum whilst in UK territorial waters they must be returned to the UK for processing.”
Rejected HOL amendments include:
*Compliance with the UN Convention on the rights of refugees.
*Extension of family reunion rights and give children who are on their own in Europe – the right to join family members here (for the Home Office if a child is alone in a country like France or Greece this is not a sufficiently ‘serious and compelling circumstance’ to allow them to join a relative here).
*Right to work for asylum seekers who have spent six months waiting for their claim to be determined – something that has been demanded for a long time by refugee support groups and human rights groups.
*Remove the secret power of citizenship deprivation without appeal.
*Remove clause which allows asylum seekers to be removed from the UK and sent overseas to a third country for their asylum claim to be processed.
Workers of the World Unite – No One Is Illegal
There will be many important legal challenges to aspects of the 2022 Act, in particular the transporting of asylum seekers to Rwanda, but what is needed is a national and international campaign led by asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants with support from communities, workers and trade unions.
Capitalism exploits and divides all workers – men v women, indigenous v immigrants; workers v people on benefit; black v white, and governments maintain control by exploiting those divisions, scapegoating groups as a distraction and blame for the bigger issues. We must take lessons from the past, reject division, call for workers solidarity and oppose the principle of immigration controls, and not restrict our demands to a call for ‘fair’ or ‘just’ controls. Reject immigration controls in their entirety!
- No Immigration Controls
- No Detentions
- No Deportations
- End Destitution
- Right to work for all
- Recourse to public funds for all
- Universal Credit for all
- The Right to Stay for all
From 1905 to 2022
From the very first anti-immigration Act, the Aliens Act 1905, immigration policy and controls have been more about racism, xenophobia, brutality and harm than about offering protection, sanctuary and safety to those fleeing war, persecution and terror.
Britain has never opened its arms to people fleeing persecution, as highlighted in the first leaflet campaigning against the introduction of immigration controls, “Voice of the Aliens’, written in 1895 by a group of Jewish Trade Unions who were fighting against the racist demands for controls as Jewish refugees fled persecution from Eastern Europe and Tsarist Russia.
The campaign failed, and the first controls were enacted, and the many subsequent controls implemented since then have been increasingly brutal, racist and draconian and aimed at deterring not welcoming refugees.