The feckless government of Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party have faced a massive backlash from opposition parties, human rights groups and well pretty much anyone on the left for announcing plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing. The theory being, and much like the Australia – Nauru precedent is that it will deter migrants from wanting to cross the channel in small boats. A dangerous journey that has claimed many lives.
To read about the history of Nauru click here
Why though is this seen as so inhumane?
The argument from the pseudo-left
I write this article as someone from the left, when I use the term pseudo-left it is to refer to those who put pronouns above working class struggle. I will also add for full disclosure that I feel the government of Boris Johnson to be morally reprehensible and an abhorrent stain on British democracy. This though does mean that merely suggesting something makes them wrong.
The basic argument of the pseudo-left is this, “refugees” have been through enough and sending them to Rwanda (a democracy) is an abuse of their human rights after they have already suffered so much. Thus being taken to Rwanda to have their asylum cases processed is inhumane.
This though ignores a number of very very important factors about migrants, refugees and so called asylum seekers and that is the original Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention or the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951.
This was proudly one of the first successes of the United Nations and was created so that if something as horrific as the Nazi regime were ever to return, then persecuted people, such as the Jews would have to be protected by the state they fled to.
This of course is something no one would argue with, sane people could and should fully agree with and is not the issue at state here. The issue is that if you are fleeing persecution and the thread of death and you traverse numerous democratic nations to try and get on a boat to Dover, then you are no longer a refugee.
To read about the fall of Boris Johnson click here.
What’s in a name, refugee, migrant, asylum seeker, economic migrant
No one is doubting that many of the people termed refugees are just that, having fled wars in places such as Syria, Yemen, the DR Congo and of course most recently Ukraine.
The Ukraine here is a prime example where rules have been followed and countries have opened their borders, such as the UK, so that neighbouring countries, such as Poland do not have to bear the brunt of having too many (legitimate) refugees and asylum seekers.
The reality though with the people crossing from France to the UK is that many are either from countries that are essentially now democratic, such as Iraq and Nigeria, or are from countries that essentially safe post-conflict zones such as Syria. These people then either enter Europe through North Africa, or the soft-belly of Belarus, and then try to make their way to the UK.
Surely if you are fleeing from imminent danger, war, or worse then your primary aim is safety and you will take asylum anywhere. The reality though is that once these people try to get to the UK, or other so called rich countries they become economic migrants.
Now before what I am saying is turned into, or perceived as a right-wing tirade, it is not. I feel for these people and were in the same position would want the best for my family. I too might be tempted to risk danger to my life in order to better that of my family, but it would not change the fact that I was an economic migrant.
I personally remember living in Bulgaria, an entry point to the EU due to its border with Turkey and literally seeing refugees passing through trying to get to richer shores. Bulgaria is a very nice safe democracy, you just can’t earn much as much there.
Again one might argue that this is a heartless way to look at things, but I say it is quite the opposite. If we conflate economic migrants with genuine asylum seekers and refugees then we completely degrade the original law and what it was set up for.
The myth of the Nauru detention centres
Australia famously used a similar model to try to dissuade people smugglers from bringing migrants to Australia. The plan was simple in that migrants would be moved to Nauru, initially in so called detention centres from where they would be processed and either taken to Australia, or a third country.
Initially this is exactly what happened, migrants were held in detention centres, and while there are stories of rape, depression and other horror stories, they have to be seen in the context of the situation, refugees put into a small place together. Yet while things like these are tragic, they pale into insignificance when compared to the wars these people were allegedly fleeing, as well as the thousands that have died at sea due to people smugglers.
It also ignores a very important second part to this story. The detention centres were fast closed, with the inhabitants then allowed to liv in Nauru as normal citizens, start relationships, businesses, or get jobs within the country.
Now for some background in Nauru, it is the smallest republic on earth, has a population of 10,000 people and can be walked around in 4 hours. It is though also a democracy and has been one since independence in 1968.
Is it interesting, no, but is it safe, yes it is. I met many migrants in Nauru who simply complained that it was boring there, with left-wing commentators essentially saying it was cruel because Nauru was so boring. Again if we list boredom as a qualifier for refugee status then I would like to go to America. Quite simply it devalues real refugees and asylum seekers when you put them in the same category as economic refugees.
How can I as a socialist say this?
Many on the left would look at what I have written and say that I lack compassion, or that I hold right0wing views, to you I say this. Is encouraging people to risk life and limb to reach rich capitalist countries where they can be explored a socialist, or humanist value?
Or would a better way for the left and the world in general to deal with this be to stop creating wars that create refugees and to fight for a system where global wealth is aired more equitably, so that people don’t need to become economic migrants.
There is nothing I like less than agreeing with anything Boris Johnson, or a Tory says, but the reality is that if your life truly is in danger, stop at the first safe country, or you might end up in Rwanda, from where due process will take place.
Photo : BBC News