Friday, August 24, 2007


The reaction to Peter Tatchell's humane Guardian article about asylum seekers and refugees ('Figures of disgrace') is a depressing reflection of the current state of the 'debate' - which is now being rejoined by the Tories, sniffing a populist issue on which New Labour has moved so far to the right as to leave little room for manoeuvring toward more sensible policy terrain. In his radical (anti-apartheid) days, Peter Hain once remarked that the letters column of the Daily Telegraph was "a litmus paper for latent British fascism". I'm sure he would have said the same for Comment-is-Free if he had read some of the asylum ripostes; though nowadays he is more likely to be found nuzzling up to Home Office minister Tony McNulty.

Partly in response to all this, I have written a piece about re-framing migration as part of a reassessment of global concerns, which I hope will be up on the Guardian site in a day or so. I will post the link here. Like Peter T, I too have personal experience of these issues. In the past I have been part of the 'Bail Circle' established by the churches and NGOs - which aims to provide support and finance to vulnerable asylum seekers facing appeals that are often hugely stacked against them. This means that I have seen first-hand the Home Office trying to wriggle out of humanitarian and human rights obligations. It is a very distasteful thing to witness. To say the least.

Of the several asylum cases I supported, a couple were refused. But being a 'failed asylum seeker' no more means that your claim is unfounded than failing an exam means you wrote lies. The government, as Peter Tatchell {pictured} says, has "shamelessly rigged the asylum system to ensure the failure of as many applicants as possible.... Some are being sent back to countries where they are at risk of arrest, jail, torture, vigilante attacks, death squads and worse."

It is truly appalling. And it bears little relation to the real issues, as I hope to show.

No comments: