Through our sister project, Refugee Tales, we have repeatedly stated that detaining people indefinitely sets the conditions for all other human rights to be eroded. We wished to be wrong! We wished that indefinite detention would end. We wished that time would show we had in fact feared that which would not occur and that a movement of people would take us a different way – a better way – to the better imagined.
With the passing of the Nationality and Borders Bill last week, it is with sadness that we now experience our ruinous government taking the path we feared in a more extreme and terrible form than we thought possible. Even if some of these proposals do not materialise, the suggestion and the narrative surrounding the idea causes immense harm.
It is clear, however, that the Nationality and Borders Bill does not represent the views of the British public. Recent British Red Cross research found that 62% of people in the UK think we should welcome refugees fleeing war or persecution from across the world. And, incredibly, over 200,000 people registered to house refugees from Ukraine. The public does not want to take away refugee’s rights.
Since the Bill passed, strong resistance has already manifested alongside statements of welcome for refugees from many. PCS, Detention Action and Freedom from Torture have joined forces to take legal action against the Home Office, to force it to reveal who will be sent to Rwanda. They argue that without knowing the criteria by which this controversial and costly plan would expel people to Rwanda, the public cannot judge whether or not it is fair, just and lawful. The public have a right to know what is done to people seeking asylum in their name and with their money.
The UNHCR has taken a stand against the Bill raising serious concerns and stating that the Bill ‘undermines established international refugee protection law and practices’.
There have also been some victories. Last week it was announced that the Home Office had withdrawn its controversial refugee pushbacks policy just over a week before a judicial review on the matter was due to be heard in the High Court. PCS, Care4Calais, Channel Rescue and Freedom from Torture had come together to challenge this dangerous, life-threatening policy. In its letter withdrawing the policy the Home Office stated that the Ministry of Defence joint commander had not had permission to authorise the use of turnaround tactics.
On Thursday a source revealed that commercial airlines had refused to assist with the Home Office’s plan to deport people seeking asylum to Rwanda. The department are now looking into hiring private charters instead.
Once again, this shows that the public do not agree with the government’s dangerous, inhumane and cruel policies.
We must continue to work at bridging the divide between hostility and hospitality. At a time when the narrative is ever more toxic, it is crucial that we remain rooted in our visiting, walking and sharing tales. It is our aim to keep fear and fury at bay but to state clearly and firmly what is true – and to do what we do best and show that our community models a better way. More than this, our role is to describe and share the losses we would experience if government policies go ahead as planned. We know how our steps are strengthened by our whole community. We’ll continue to celebrate the whole community even when there is an overwhelming negative clamour grabbing our attention and controlling the news cycle. How right it was that we set the theme of our July walk as ‘solidarity’ and how important our coming together will be on the walk.
We encourage you to draw on our collective courage for the next months.