August 7, 2023
From Socialist Worker (UK)

Anti-racists stand with banners and a welcome sign to welcome refugees into portland with Solidarity

Anti-racists welcome refugees with solidarity in Portland, Dorset (Picture: Stand Up To Racism/Twitter)

The Tories are determined to force refugees into a dangerous Barge in Devon—despite ­warnings that it could be a “death trap”.

And they are also considering a scheme to send desperate people who flee poverty, oppression and climate chaos to an isolated volcanic island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. 

The government moved the first group of refugees onto the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset, this week.

That’s despite an internal ­government document which states that many could be infected if there was an outbreak of diseases such as ­diphtheria on board.

Similar diseases, including tuberculosis, scurvy and scabies, have already broken out at RAF Wethersfield in Braintree, Essex. And a man died in Manston ­processing centre in Kent after ­contracting diphtheria.

The barge “outbreak ­management plan” warns “accommodation ­providers should be aware that in the event of a significant outbreak large numbers of staff as well as ­residents may be impacted.

“Contingency plans for surge staffing to maintain minimum numbers should be in place.”

The management plan was drawn up by the Home Office contractors for the barge, Landry & Kling and Global Ship Solutions and given to NHS Dorset. It was released after a freedom of information request.

As well as diphtheria, legionnaires’ disease, norovirus, salmonella and others could also spread on the Bibby Stockholm.

“For security reasons, we prefer not to give the dates on which individuals arrive. You won’t have long to wait. This is an important step ­forwards,” immigration minister Robert Jenrick said.

Fire safety issues delayed the moving-in date onto the barge last week, which has been called “a potential death trip” by the Fire Brigades Union.

Dorset Stand Up To Racism planned to greet refugees. The group said, “We continue to oppose the barge as inhumane and unsafe. But we will do everything we can to welcome refugees who arrive.

Meanwhile home secretary Suella Braveman said in the Mail on Sunday newspaper that ­immigration lawyers are “criminals and con-men”.

She accused them of ­coaching migrants “on how to lie to get through our system, how to game our system, how to play our rules, they are cheating the British people.”

And as the Tory plan to expel refugees to Rwanda hangs in the balance, the Tories are considering sending people to Ascension Island in the south Atlantic.

This plan was rejected as unworkable in 2020 before the Illegal Migration Act blocked people coming to Britain through “irregular means” from re-entering.

The government also plan to order harsher fines to those that employ or rent to refugees who have not been given an asylum decision.

Landlords with tenants without full immigration status could be forced to pay £5,000—the current fine is £80. Multiple occupancies could see £10,000 for each lodger, with the current fine at £1,000.

Employers could also face fines of up to ÂŁ45,000, up from ÂŁ15,000.

But these measures aren’t to stop exploitative bosses and landlords from keeping refugees in atrocious conditions.

Jenrick said it’s a deterrent to make “it harder for illegal migrants to work an operate” in Britain.

The Tories’ vile racism will ­continue as they attempt to keep their promise of “stopping the boats”.

This only encourages the racists protesting outside sites where refugees are housed, and creates a hostile environment for the most vulnerable seeking sanctuary.

Labour backs barges for refugees too

While the Tories ramp up repression, the Labour Party’s response has been to dutifully run away from confronting them.

Last weekend shadow minister for immigration Stephen Kinnock said Labour would be “forced” to put refugees in barges for up to six months.

“I’m confident that within six months of a Labour government we will be getting on top of the backlog and clearing people out of hotels and putting them into suitable accommodation, or removing them from the country properly because they have no right to be here,” Kinnock added.

Labour’s main goal isn’t to welcome refugees but deport more people than the Tories have been able to. Their goal is to be seen as tough on migration—and on migrants. 

That’s why Kinnock echoed right wing rhetoric when he said, “Refugees in hotels are costing the British taxpayer £6 million a day.

“That is money that could be channelled into far more useful causes in terms of our schools, our hospitals, helping to grow our economy.”

If he wants refugees to leave hotels, why doesn’t he say refugees should be able to work and receive benefits and have access to housing just like other people?

And why doesn’t he target the rip-offs by the rich? Labour needs to start from welcoming refugees, not condemning them. Instead, the party is moving even further to the right over refugees—and other issues.

Leader Keir Starmer took a swipe at Just Stop Oil last weekend. He said Labour wouldn’t tear up the 100 new drilling licences commissioned by Rishi Sunak—something the climate group has called for.

Starmer called the campaigners’ demand “contemptible”. “We won’t revoke any licences issued by this government because, unlike Just Stop Oil, we take investor certainty and legal obligations seriously,” he said.