The refugees who died in the Channel on 24/11/21, whose true number may never been known, were victims of a politically motivated crime against humanity committed by the British government. Movement for Justice declares that Boris Johnson’s government is guilty of racist mass murder.
The policies and actions of this government made yesterday’s tragedy inevitable, sooner or later. Its actions have made the deaths of many smaller groups of cross-Channel refugees inevitable over the last three years. The government actually instigated a policy of pushbacks at sea whereby big Border Force boats are to physically block small refugee boats and force them out of UK waters, action so life-threateningly dangerous that even their own officials are afraid to carry it out.
Of course, they were ready with their prepared responses to Wednesday’s deaths. With solemn faces, they put the blame on ‘people smugglers’ and France. Most of the media has followed that line.
What hypocrisy! People smugglers are only in business thanks to the racist policies of Britain and other European governments. They are the offspring of Fortress Britain and Fortress Europe. As for France – the refugees were trying to seek asylum in Britain; that was their right, and they died because the UK government used every means possible to deny them that right.
Defeat the Borders Bill – Defeat the Far Right Government
These deaths came as the Government is pushing a new Nationality & Borders Bill through Parliament. This Bill takes the racist, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee Hostile Environment policies of previous governments to new depths of barbarism. It will tear up established rights and safeguards, including the United Nations Refugee Convention. Without doubt it will lead to the deaths of many more refugees and immigrants, in Britain and trying to get here.
Johnson heads a far right government that sees this Borders Bill as the most important public, political element in a raft of repressive anti-democratic laws. It isn’t just another immigration bill, it is a move towards a more dictatorial form of government – and in reality towards fascism.
That makes the response of most liberal and charity groups to the deaths in the Channel thoroughly alarming. They are calling on this government to establish ‘safe legal routes’ for asylum seekers. The founder of the well-known refugee rights charity, Care for Calais, is even saying that the Home Office should set up a ‘screening centre’ in Calais to decide which potential asylum seekers could go on to pursue their claim in Britain.
Defend asylum rights, no to ‘safe legal routes’
Movement for Justice strongly opposes such proposals. ‘Safe legal routes’ is code for no-route at all. It effectively means ‘off-shoring’ the asylum process – a betrayal. The power to decide who can arrive would be used invisibly and entirely at the will of the political elite. There would be no opportunity for a challenge. Refugees only have a realistic chance of asserting their rights if they are in Britain, with a wider public that believes in the right of sanctuary.
The government is truly afraid of the presence of determined, bold refugees in Britain, because these are people who took the initiative to get free rather than waste away in despair, as happens to generations of refugees who are stuck in the limbo of United Nations refugee camps. They have the most to contribute and teach the anti-racist communities and the poor and oppressed in Britain.
That is why the government is so eager to off-shore the asylum process to concentration camps, where officials have dictatorial control to privately pick and choose who they deem ‘worthy’ of asylum, leaving the rest to languish for years in unseen squalor (and perhaps desperately hoping to get a place in one of the UN camp lotteries).
There would be no difference if this policy was operated by a Labour government. Any Labour leadership that implemented ‘safe legal routes’ would be a leadership committed to maintaining the same racist anti-immigrant system. Labour governments have in fact shared responsibility for this system since the 1960s.
Labour’s current shadow Home Secretary has been attacking the government, not for its racism and cruelty, but for failing to stop large numbers of refugees crossing the Channel. He proposed to work with other governments to prevent refugees getting anywhere near the Channel. Many black, Asian and anti-racist Labour Party members are unhappy with the leadership. They must openly challenge those racist policies, not only in words and conference motions, but by joining the active resistance to make the Borders Bill unworkable.
Open the Borders of Britain and Europe
Movement for Justice asserts that the only fair and progressive alternative to the persecution of cross-Channel refugees, and the government’s attempts to consolidate a Far Right racist base, is to Open the Borders.
Opening the Borders is what hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are actually doing around the world because they have no alternative. It’s what refugees are doing in the Channel, the Mediterranean, the deserts of north Africa and on the southern borders of the USA. It will continue and grow because mass migration is a global rebellion against an increasingly unequal and unjust world. It is a rebellion against tyranny, poverty, racism, imperialist wars and global heating.
Open the Borders is not an abstract demand on the British government; it is a Call to Action for a movement of immigrants, refugees, black, Asian & Muslim communities, and youth. It means building that movement on both sides of the Channel and across Europe, to counter and resist the activities of the Home Office, stop deportations, create real safe routes and build & defend real asylum communities. We must pull down the walls of Fortress Britian and Fortress Europe.
Building that movement is how we can best honour those who have sought freedom and justice and died in the Channel and around the world