Friday 15 April 2022

The Grotesque Rwanda Deal

News that the Tories struck a deal with Rwanda to export asylum seekers there could not have been better timed. Priti Patel gets to play to her self-perceived strengths as a no-nonsense scourge of refugees, and Boris Johnson's "difficulties" recede into the background. And it has worked, for the moment. The coverage and the anger it has provoked is pretty much what the Tories were hoping for, though the prep work necessary to get the deal done suggests its conclusion directly after the first rule breaking fine for Johnson was coincidence rather than cunning.

The details of the agreement are grotesque. The key reasons why refugees want to come to Britain isn't because the economy is firing on all cylinders and people across the globe want a piece of the action, it's because English is the global language, there are established communities and, in some cases, family ready to welcome incomers from the most common origin countries - Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan, etc. And believe it or not, despite the alacrity with which the UK has pursued wars in Africa and the Middle East, and how "our" capital remains a major extractive force in the global south, this country has a good reputation. It's safe, it's stable, there are democratic freedoms and the rule of law, and its cultural exports do an effective job of maintaining its good standing. Patel and the horrors who dreamed up the scheme know this, and their cynical thinking is geared around ending this pull factor and washing the UK's hands of its international obligations.

And it's perverse as well. Rwanda itself is not a safe country, something the UK itself acknowledged when the government recently criticised it for human rights abuses. Then there's memory, or lack of it. Building detention centres in an African nation recalls the imperial tradition of the concentration camp - the British invention that was founded on African soil during the Boer War, and used systematically against the Kenyan insurgency in the early 1950s. And there's the utter absurdity of it. An asylum seeker from Rwanda could and will be sent to Rwanda for processing.

Disgracefully, the official "opposition" fell at the first hurdle. Keir Starmer went after Johnson on money. "It's going to cost billions and billions" he wailed, before adding his customary "get a grip". This shows, once again, the abject cowardice of the Labour front bench, of refusing to challenge as the Tories set about framing an issue to their advantage. Despite polling showing that a plurality of the public oppose the scheme, the data demonstrates the most enthusiastic support for exporting refugees are among retirees. What a surprise. But rather than actually show some political leadership, Starmer is trying to skirt around the immorality of the issue by appealing to their wallets. It's a yellow bellied display that won't even work. Socially conservative voters aren't against public spending per se. They're quite happy to see money lavished on certain things, like the military, the police, and being beastly to asylum seekers. Sending people thousands of miles away from these shores satisfies their desire for punching down and and lets them sleep at night, knowing their fragile image of Britain is slightly less imperilled by the arrival of a few thousand brown people. How much Labour members' money is Starmer paying his advisors, again?

But what this also shows is Tory strategy ahead of the next general election. Having failed miserably to deliver on his modernisation promises, the only possible electoral opening for Johnson is to try and soldier on with the voter coalition that put him in office. Patel's Rwanda scheme is the centre piece of more war on woke rubbish, more promises of clamping down on undesirables, and following the war in Ukraine, a splurge on the military is in order to ward off Russian aggression. It will keep the right wing press on side and help the Tories define the issues that matter during the election. In short, an entirely regressive prospectus, but one that, despite calamity Keir, probably won't be enough to get him over the line again. The cost of living and PartyGate are exacting their toll, and even among loyal Tory voters the unease is setting in. It's just appalling that tens of thousands of refugees are going to be put through the ringer for Johnson's electoral stunt.

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JN said...

If there is such a thing as an opposition in Parliament, one question they should be asking is: why Rwanda, of all places? It would be hard to name a country less able to cope well with large numbers of refugees that isn't itself currently a war-zone. Of course, that is presumably the whole point but the government should be made to explain their reasoning explicitly and in detail. Better to have it out in the open, at least.

Dipper said...

So what is 'the left position'?

It seems to me our current legal system means that if anyone turns up in the channel, then our human rights laws mean not only that we cannot deport them but their entire extended family can come here under the 'right to family life' .

Also the 'small numbers' defence is dishonest, particularly given the experience of FOM. We were constantly told that only small numbers would use the freedoms of FOM, tens of thousands, only to find out that, surprise, 5 million people applied for settled status. My expectation is that if the UK proves itself unable to deter migrants in the channel, then the numbers will increase dramatically.

So, please, what is your policy?

spike said...

The pure EVIL of Patel is beyond belief

Anonymous said...

Word on the street is pcs is considering strike action over this