John Knight's December 2021 Talking Politics column for Macclesfield Express

4 December 2021

It’s disgraceful to see governments treat refugees like political footballs. The Nationality and Borders Bill has been condemned by charities, campaigners and refugee communities because it will make conditions even more hostile for refugees.

Proposals include offshore detention, the criminalisation of refugees arriving in an irregular manner and the legalisation of pushing boats back across the English Channel. The Joint Council for the Welfare for Immigrants have described the bill as ‘an attack on the principles enshrined in the Refugee Convention.’

From threatening to force border guards to push refugee boats back, to sustained attacks on lawyers representing asylum seekers, this government seems more interested in fighting culture wars than rational evidence-based policy. It is an outrage that people seeking a safe harbour here are targeted as scapegoats.

The number of people applying for asylum each year has stayed within a small range since 2015 (except for a rise in 2019, which decreased the following year). Cracking down on existing routes hasn’t reduced people coming to this country, but instead forced them to take more dangerous routes.

Let’s tackle the huge backlog of unprocessed asylum claims. Allow refugees to work instead of preventing them. Stop sending refugees back to places of danger and deliver the warm welcome promised to Afghan refugees.

Let’s show that refugees are welcome here.

“We can all be refugees
Nobody is safe
All it takes is a mad leader
Or no rain to bring forth food
We can all be refugees
We can all be told to go
We can be hated by someone
For being someone…”

“We all came from refugees
Nobody simply just appeared
Nobody's here without a struggle
And why should we live in fear
Of the weather or the troubles?
We all came here from somewhere.”

(extract from Benjamin Zephaniah’s “We Refugees”)

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