5 May 2022
Diary of a Corbynista
A Moral Vacuum
by Don Urquhart
The Prime Minister and Home Secretary claimed that the Rwanda proposal would save countless lives from human trafficking. It does not look likely given that Rwanda’s capacity for processing asylum seekers is only 500 per year. It seems that keen-eyed civil servants had spotted this and other defects so objected to the scheme only to be overridden by the Home Secretary’s ministerial direction, a rarely used device. One hopes there was no bullying involved.
Patel’s key argument is that nobody has come up with an alternative to her Rwanda policy. Surely it would make more sense to put more resource into law enforcement agencies and other initiatives which aim to root out and punish offenders. I wish I had a pound for every time a politician has said we need to crack down on human traffickers. Crack Down is as meaningless as Levelling Up.
There are a number of organisations dedicated to eliminating human trafficking. Probably pre-eminent is Stop the Traffik (STT) and here’s their verdict on our Rwanda policy.
The details of the Home Office’s methodology are unclear and STT believes that this plan could in fact increase the potential profit to the traffickers and risk to those vulnerable to being exploited.
The traffickers’ business model is agile. The UK government has not evidenced how such plans will deter those asylum seekers taking risks to reach the UK. We know that the criminals will adapt and diversify to capitalise on business opportunity.
Thom Brooks ’ article in the Independent suggests initiating discussions with the EU about allowing the UK to ship back asylum seekers to the Continent. He makes the point that when we were in the EU we had this right, although he omits to mention that it was tied to freedom of movement, so any EU citizens could come here quite legally. But it is a well-informed take on the mess Johnson’s government has created:
When parliament debated Patel’s Rwanda deal this week, she repeatedly made the claim that her opponents had no alternative to her plan. Critics might disagree, but they offered no solution to what to do about English Channel crossings in her view – a point many have bitterly contested.
But there is a clear alternative that would be a far better solution.
We might think it makes much better sense to return English Channel small boats to France or wherever in Europe they set off from than to pack them up and ship them 4,000 miles away. The priority is to organise their removal – not to Rwanda – but to France or elsewhere in the European Union.
This might sound complicated, but it isn’t. In fact, we were part of an arrangement with France and the European Union – called the Dublin Regulation – until Brexit. This allowed the UK to return anyone claiming asylum in the UK to the first country within the larger EU they had been to first. The pre-Brexit arrangement probably had a deterrent effect. Everyone wanting to seek asylum in the UK would know or soon find out that after crossing the Channel they could – and often were – promptly returned.
Everything changed after Brexit. We left this arrangement with the EU without anything in its place in our haste to agree a deal and get out. This meant that someone crossing the Channel would be much harder to return and would be able to remain in the UK for longer.
It is noticeable that, until Brexit, small boat crossings had barely registered as a major issue for decades, with relatively few crossings made. Only after Brexit has the number of crossings exploded. No doubt the increased security around Calais, the closing of the jungle camp and the absence of any safe, legal routes for asylum to Britain have fuelled this rise, making people take greater risks to get across. But the absence of any removal arrangement has singled Britain out and is no doubt a significant, and probably the most significant, contributing factor behind the rising numbers.
Whether or not Thom Brooks’ advice is practical, sending people to the Heart of Darkness appears evil and stupid.
Bernard Schlink wrote a wonderful book called The Reader where the central character, Kate Winslet in the film, is a pleasant lady who, when younger, was a concentration camp guard. She is desensitised to evil by the prevailing culture of the Nazi hierarchy. It is a similar process that has Conservative Members of Parliament accepting and marketing the diktats and precepts of the moral vacuum that is Boris Johnson