Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 45 Number 25, September 5, 2015 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Britain and Other Big Powers Must Accept
Responsibility for Global Refugee Crisis
which They Themselves Have Created

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

Britain and Other Big Powers Must Accept Responsibility for
Global Refugee Crisis which They Themselves Have Created

Theresa May’s Attempts to Dehumanise the Most Vulnerable

National Demonstration, London: 12 September – Refugees Welcome Here

Statements on the refugee crisis

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Britain and Other Big Powers Must Accept Responsibility for
Global Refugee Crisis which They Themselves Have Created


The Cameron government appears to be increasingly isolated for its approach to the refugee crisis affecting Europe, a crisis that it, and its predecessors and allies are largely responsible for creating. The government still maintains that it has no responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing from Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and many other countries where British governments and those of the other big powers have intervened militarily, or by other means created war, instability and poverty.

In an interview with The Guardian, Prime Minister David Cameron spoke in response to questions concerning the now viral photo of Aylan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian child refugee lying dead on a Turkish beach. Cameron made great efforts to explain that his government had provided refuge for “a number of genuine asylum seekers from Syrian refugee camps”, a number known to be 216. Cameron's response, implying that there are also in existence asylum seekers and refugees from the Syrian conflict that the government considers not to be genuine, has provoked public outrage. The public concern over the horrendous humanitarian tragedy has sparked a wave of
“refugees welcome” demonstrations and manifestations. This concern, together with the pressure from other EU members, appears to have shamed David Cameron into promising that Britain will accept “thousands” more Syrian refugees. A shift is also seen in the reporting of the crisis, with a recognition that this is a refugee crisis, not an issue of “economic migrants”, as the government and its spokespeople had been intent on insisting.

However, Cameron also argued that for the government, which has continued its predecessor’s policy of destabilising Syria, “the most important thing is to try to bring peace and stability to that part of the world”. There is no doubt that peace and stability is what is required, but it has been intervention by Britain and its allies in what was originally an internal Syrian conflict which has led to over 7 million people being displaced and over 4 million refugees, as well as hundreds of thousands of deaths. It is therefore difficult to see how a policy of destabilising the government of Syria and supporting those who are fighting against it is likely to bring “peace and
stability” to that country. As for accepting refugees from Syria, Cameron's inhumane stance has been starkly put into perspective by the statistics that there are over 2 million people who have fled from Syria who are currently present in Turkey, and other European countries have refugees numbered in the thousands and hundreds of thousands.

According to the government it is doing everything possible to avert the global refugee crisis. In this regard the Prime Minister stated, “We are taking action right across the board, helping countries from which these people are coming, stabilising them and trying to make sure there are worthwhile jobs and stronger economies there.” But where and how is the government taking such action? Certainly not through the bombing and destabilisation of Libya, which has brought complete anarchy to that country, at least two rival governments and increased instability across North Africa and the Sahel. Clearly not by military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine or Kosovo, countries that are also producing thousands of refugees, nor by championing neo-liberal globalisation and its Eurocentric values around the world, which has forced millions of people to seek their livelihoods abroad.


In response to the global crisis of some 60 million displaced people and refugees the main response of the government has been to dehumanise those in need, spread disinformation about the crisis, and do everything possible to develop security measures to keep vulnerable people at arms length, preferably in France. It is an approach that is now coming under sustained assault. There has been condemnation of the government’s approach from the Catholic Church, the prospective leaders of the Labour Party, as well as Conservative backbenchers and local councillors, the Refugee Council and other organisations. There is no doubt that people are shocked not only by the images presented in the media but also by the callousness and inhumanity of the government’s response.

The government must be condemned for its refusal to do more to take responsibility for the global refugee crisis. It has insulted public opinion in its crassly in-humanitarian attitude in treating as less than human beings those who are refugees from war zones and tragic situations. The aggressive, unjust, racist and militaristic actions of the neo-liberal establishment has created the conditions for these crises. Military intervention, the use of force and an illegal policy of regime change carried out by Britain and the other big powers have created a global crisis and only the cessation of all such intervention can resolve matters. It is the task of the workers and all democratic people to play the leading role in bringing stability and people-centred values to the world by creating the conditions for a pro-people anti-war government.

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Theresa May’s Attempts to Dehumanise the Most Vulnerable

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As the refugee crisis was building from crisis to crisis, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, signed an agreement towards the end of August on behalf of the British government with the government of France to introduce new measures, including an Anglo-French “control and command” centre, to prevent refugees and asylum seekers reaching Britain from France. May is quoted as saying that the British and French police will “relentlessly pursue” what were referred to as people-smuggling gangs, in yet another effort to criminalise the global refugee crisis that has been created by Britain and the other big powers. May announced more police and other security measures would also be implemented and added that she was aware that such measures in France were likely to force the vulnerable to seek refuge in other EU countries.

May’s visit to France was organised so that she would not meet anyone seeking refuge or asylum, while for their part the refugees in Calais organised a demonstration and are reported to
Protest at Yarl's Wood detention centre
have chanted “we are not animals”, and “open the borders”. French police are said to have dispersed the demonstration with tear gas. The actions of the government in Britain appear to be designed both to criminalise those seeking refuge and to force EU countries other than Britain to deal with the refugee crisis. At the same time as the Anglo-French agreement was signed the German interior minster announced that Germany was preparing to accommodate some 800,000 asylum seekers by the end of 2015. Commentators have pointed out that many other countries in Europe accommodate many more refugees and asylum seekers than Britain does, as do countries such as Turkey and Lebanon. Even Greece with all its economic problems has dealt with over 120,000 migrants and refugees this year.

The Cameron government not only attempts to criminalise those seeking refuge or entering Britain without papers, it also treats thousands that do arrive as criminals. The recent Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales (HMCIP), Nick Hardwick, presents a damning indictment of the government’s use of what are referred to as
Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs), in effect prisons/detention centres for some 3,500 people who have entered the country unofficially, or without papers, as well as those who are awaiting judgement on asylum application, or who are awaiting deportation.

In fact last year only 53% of those detained were subsequently deported from Britain, and according to the report facilities were totally insufficient to prepare those detained for release or for return to their countries of origin. HMCIP drew particular attention to the government’s policy of using the centres for indefinite detention of inmates, a practice that the government frowns upon in other countries and which can be seen as a form of torture. HMICP stated: “The detrimental impact of this policy on a detainee’s mental state and family life cannot be adequately quantified, and it is noteworthy that Britain remains one of very few countries that continue to use indefinite detention.”


HMCIP also reported that those detained were denied appropriate legal and medical facilities and denied access to social media and Skype, so were unable to contact family or friends. The Report stated that in some cases “security was disproportionate”, referring to a “prison-like environment” in some IRCs and an “oppressive” regime in one. The report also drew attention to the particularly repressive and inhuman conditions facing women and children in detention centres and noted that the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women had been denied access to the notorious Yarl’s Wood IRC earlier this year. That facility was the subject of another damning report also published earlier in the year. In that document
HMCIP again drew attention to the fact that over 50% of the women detained were subsequently released into the community. This, it added “raised questions about the validity of their detention in the first place”. It also highlighted the fact that the Home Office had broken its own guidelines by detaining nearly 100 pregnant women, only a few of whom had subsequently been deported. The report concluded, “Yarl’s Wood is rightly a place of national concern.”

In fact, the recent escalation in the scale of the crisis has proved, if proof were needed, that the government’s entire approach to refugees, migrants and asylum seekers is a matter of serious national concern. It is an approach that is illustrated by Cameron’s statement about “swarms” of migrants and preventing people “breaking in to Britain”. It is exemplified by the government’s willingness to spend millions of pounds on security measures in Calais, which for centuries has been part of France not Britain. Even the Mayor of Calais accused David Cameron of treating the region with contempt.

WWIE calls on everyone to add their voices of condemnation against the government for its inhuman and criminal approach to those who are most vulnerable. We call on everyone to join in the various manifestations, such as the national demonstration on September 12.

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National Demonstration, London: 12 September – Refugees Welcome Here

 

Refugees Welcome Here: Day of Action
National Demonstration 12 September
Assemble Marble Arch 12 Noon
March to Downing Street

 

Called by: Stop the War Coalition | Solidarity With Refugees | Stand up to Racism | Barac | Migrant Rights Network | People's Assembly | War on Want | Movement Against Xenophobia | Love Music Hate Racism | Black Out London

Only one heart didn't melt at the pictures of the three-year-old Syrian Kurdish boy's dead body washed up on a Turkish beach: David Cameron's. He responded by refusing to take anymore refugees.

But he is still promising to try and force parliament to agree more bombing of Syria. Which will force more refugees to flee Syria. And then David Cameron will let them drown too.

The refugee crisis is growing worse by the day across Europe as thousands flee war and chaos. Many have died in the most terrible circumstances, suffocating in lorries or drowning during dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean.

They are being treated terribly by many of the government's of Europe, including our own. These majority of these refugees are the victims of war, many of them fleeing the disasterous war in Syria.

David Cameron's statement today aims to justify further war and bombing rather than helping the refugees. He is refusing to take any refugees in Britain, one of the world's richest countries.

Stop the War has come together with other organisations to call for a London protest on 12 September and a day of action across the country on that day. We urge our members, supporters and groups to take any action they can on that day, alongside anti racist and refugee groups.

Successive British governments have spent billions on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, plus on covert intervention in Syria. The outcome has been destruction of infrastructure across the Middle East, the growth of terrorism in the region, and the displacement of millions.

Their only solution is further war, even though it is increasingly obvious that this option is only creating yet more chaos. Just as we oppose wars, we try to show solidarity with its victims.

UPDATED INFORMATION :

***Please note we have changed the start time to 12pm and assembly point to Marble Arch as we were approached by the organiser of Solidarity With Refugees to work together and co-ordinate. We think it is sensible to have one event on Saturday 12 September.

This event has been called in response to various reports of refugees fleeing war, persecution, torture and poverty losing their lives or struggling to find a safe haven. This includes the death of 200 refugees off the coast of Libya, around 70 refugees in a truck in Austria and on going reports of refugees drowning crossing the Mediterranean, stranded in Hungary and prohibited from moving around the EU, and those in Calais struggling to find sanctuary.

The government response to this has been disgraceful. Unlike Germany, Italy and Greece, Britain has not offered a safe haven for these people.

On Monday 14 September Home Secretary Theresa May will be meeting with EU leaders about the refugee crisis. We must learn the lessons of history and call on the government to take a humanitarian and compassionate response to refugees, and to meet its share of the responsibility for providing protection. Let's send a strong message: we say refugees are welcome here.

We are also calling for a national day of action on Saturday 12 September. Birmingham, Leicester and every where to the South of these should come to London. Scotland, Wales and every where to the North should organise local events. We want events any thing from a vigil, to unveiling a "Refugees Welcome Here" banner at football matches or at places of worship and community centres, use your imagination!

Join us on Saturday 12 September 2015.

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Statements on the refugee crisis:

Caroline Lucas (Green Party MP)


"The heart wrenching scenes we’re seeing– of children being washed up dead on beaches, of people being detained en masse on trains, of thousands upon thousands risking their lives to come to Europe – serve as a reminder of our duty to help those in peril however we can.

“We have the capacity to take more refugees in Britain, but the Government lacks the will to do what’s right. Indeed David Cameron’s reluctance to give a home to those in need is a damning indictment of his administration’s pernicious attitude to those fleeing atrocities in other countries. When our Prime Minister’s only real action of note is to fund higher fences in Calais, it’s clear he’s lost all perspective of the gravity of the situation.

"Britain can and must do more – it’s time for the Government to wake up to the cruelty of its current stance and give many more refugees the chance to settle here."

Jeremy Corbyn (Labour Party leadership candidate)


Jeremy Corbyn called on the Prime Minister to urgently co-ordinate a proper humanitarian response to the refugee crisis.

Corbyn is calling on David Cameron to co-operate with the EU and UN so that Britain takes its fair share of refugees. He should also immediately bring together civil society and religious leaders, devolved administrations, councils and charities to properly plan and co-ordinate our humanitarian response, the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader website said.


Campaign against Euro-Federalism (CAEF)

In an editorial in the July-August issue of its newspaper The Democrat , CAEF said: “...Germany has stated she will welcome and take 800,000 refugees largely from Syria. Even German football fans have waved banners welcoming the refugees. Germany did not take part in bombing Libya. Britain and France were largely responsible for that awful crime against humanity which followed the devastation wreaked on Iraq. … Britain has always been a haven for refugees and asylum seekers and should continue to be so in a humane manner. Britain must take on its share of responsibility for those seeking a decent life and allow these people the dignity of human beings.”

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