Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel has once again stepped up her anti-migrant rhetoric by proposing to divert migrant boats back to France after they are intercepted in the English Channel. Patel has claimed that border force staff will be trained in “turn-around” tactics, to force boats intercepted to head back towards France.
This threat follows a significant increase in the number of people arriving in Britain by small boats. Over 13,500 have made the crossing so far this year, compared to 8,420 in the whole of last year.
In order to look tough on the question of migration, Patel has threatened to withhold part of the £55 million that the Tories had committed to pay the French government to clamp down on the number of crossings.
This is far from the first time that Patel has tried to whip-up hysteria about those crossing the Channel. Just last year, there were hypocritical attempts made to prevent boats from attempting the crossing, nominally on the grounds of the danger that this poses to those seeking refuge.
Despite all the Tories’ bluster, it is fairly clear what this represents: a deflection tactic to divert attention from the multiple crises they are facing at home.
It is not a coincidence that this latest outburst has come at the same time that the Tories are under pressure from all sides: from the bosses about labour shortages; from their own backbenchers about the threat of COVID restrictions being reimposed; and from workers over the recent tax increases to pay for social care.
With public anger brewing over the attempt to force the working class to pay for these crises, the Tories need something else to attract the headlines. And, of course, what could be better than hysteria being whipped-up about migrants crossing the Channel?
Indeed, the problems facing the Tories are likely to get even worse. The working class will be presented with the huge bill for the coronavirus crisis, in the form of further austerity. The NHS is set to struggle through the winter. And the very ‘key workers’ who were applauded during the pandemic are now being ‘rewarded’ with pitiful pay increases.
As has always been the case, refugees entering Britain can be used as the ideal scapegoat for all these ills, rather than the real criminals taking the blame: the Tories, the bosses, and their rotten system – capitalism.
14,000 migrants have crossed the Channel since January. Priti Patel is spending £200 million on a border force armada on top of whatever she has already spent.— The Purple Pimpernel (@Eyeswideopen69) September 15, 2021
This is at least £14,000 per migrant.
Wouldn’t it be better to welcome them, house them and put them to work?
Perhaps the most staggering part of Patel’s recent comments is her breathtaking hypocrisy.
With the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan sparking a major refugee crisis, Patel and the rest of the Tory cabinet have been using the entire episode as a photo opportunity. Under their so-called ‘Operation Warm Welcome’, those arriving from Afghanistan will supposedly be greeted with housing, healthcare and education.
Of course, those fleeing the Taliban will receive anything but a warm welcome. In reality, refugees face a deliberately cultivated ‘hostile environment’, which includes years of desperate poverty, racist attacks (no doubt stirred-up by anti-migrant rhetoric), and threats of deportation – all before the possibility of their claim even being accepted.
This, along with the recent comments about those trying to enter Britain by boat, shows the shallowness of Patel’s apparent ‘concern’ towards those fleeing the Taliban, which is nothing but an opportunistic face-saving exercise, in the face of strong public support towards Afghan refugees.
Indeed, her only real concern is to stir-up xenophobia amongst the most backward layers, in a pathetic attempt to distract from the Tories’ failures.
For all the reactionary and racist attacks on migrants from the Tories and their press, the truth is that the capitalist class no doubt relishes the opportunity to super-exploit the influx of undocumented migrants entering the UK.
On the one hand, the Tories cynically utilise racism to divide the working class. On the other, the bosses will happily take advantage of migrant labour in order to boost their profits.
It is therefore the duty of the labour movement to organise amongst this layer, to fight for decent wages and working conditions for all.
This must be linked to the struggle for socialism, in order to solve the chronic shortages of jobs, housing, and healthcare – the scarcity of which provides the ideal breeding ground for racism and bigotry.
That tens of thousands of people are forced to risk their lives crossing the Channel is a scandal. The left must fight for a socialist and internationalist alternative. This means demanding open borders and the provision of safe passage to all refugees
To end this horror once and for all, however, we must end capitalism – the barbaric system that is responsible for the poverty, war, and devastation that forces people to seek refuge in the first place.