On 15 November, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the government’s plan to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda is unlawful. This represents a significant blow for Sunak and the Tories, who have made the refugee deportation proposal a centrepiece of their reactionary, divisive culture war agenda, as they lurch from crisis to crisis.
At the same time, however, this legal ruling will not stop the attacks on migrants. To end the ‘hostile environment’ for good, workers and youth must organise to topple the Tories and their system.
In April 2022, the Tories announced a strategy to send those travelling to Britain illegally to Rwanda, where they can ‘apply for settlement’ or ‘apply to a third safe country’. This was cynically justified by government ministers with tokenistic references to preventing human trafficking.
The deportation plan was immediately met with a chorus of criticism and condemnation by human rights campaigners, experts, and activists. Subsequently, the first and only plane chartered for Rwanda – in June last year – was stopped by a last minute intervention from the European Court of Human Rights.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court found that the government’s proposals, if executed, would breach a raft of UK and international human rights legislation.
Judges ruled that there is a high risk that refugees could be returned to their home countries, from which they have fled persecution and war. This is known as refoulement, and is prohibited by a range of domestic and international laws.
Eager to throw more red meat towards the frothing Tory ranks, and appease the supporters of Suella Braverman, the recently-sacked Home Secretary, the Prime Minister has doubled down.
Sunak has assured that his government is preparing “emergency legislation”, which will allow Parliament to override the courts and declare Rwanda a “safe country”. This could enable flights to depart “as early as the spring”.
But even this is not enough to sate the most rabid sections of the Tory Party, who have demanded that the UK leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and that other human rights legislation be amended to prevent any further ‘interference’.
This highlights the limits of relying on the legal system to protect migrants and refugees. No matter how many laws and rulings are decided in the courts, the Tories will always ride roughshod over anything that runs counter to their interests.
This band of goons claim that the policy will work by “deterring refugees from crossing the Channel”. Yet the government has not been able to provide any estimate for how many migrants would be curbed by their suggested strategy.
Furthermore, the Tories have admitted that the cost of deportation is no cheaper than housing refugees in Britain. One assessment found that the relative expense of deportation, compared to keeping an asylum-seeker in the UK, is actually £63,000 higher. And despite having already paid the Rwandan state £140 million, the government has not yet sent a single refugee there.
With millions in Britain having to choose between heating and eating this winter, and crises mounting on Downing Street, the Tories are desperate to find a scapegoat for all the ills in society.
Their ‘hostile environment’ policy therefore has nothing to do with defending jobs, housing, and services, or with protecting migrants from people-smugglers. It is simply a cynical ploy; an attempt to distract and divide the working class as British capitalism declines and decays.
While the Tories use asylum-seekers as a convenient political football, the bosses take advantage of the vulnerable situation that migrants face in order to exploit them ever-harder.
By threatening to report migrant workers to the Home Office, unscrupulous employers are able to subject them to dire living and working conditions – pushing wages down and profits up. It is estimated that there are currently around 130,000 cases of such modern slavery in the UK.
For all the bleating and drum-beating from a wing of the Tories about tightening the borders of Fortress Britain, therefore, the bosses that they represent are more than happy to see a steady supply of precarious, unorganised, cheap, super-exploitable labour enter the country.
The ruling class, meanwhile, are eager to whip up racism and xenophobia against migrants, in order to divide and exploit the whole working class.
And while the Tories and capitalists dance in this cynical circus, thousands of asylum-seekers suffer in semi-slave like conditions: whether at camps in Calais; inside UK detention centres; or hidden in plain sight by slum landlords and parasitic bosses in the most deprived areas of society.
War and poverty are inseparable from capitalism. It is this inherently chaotic system that pushes people to flee their homes and take desperate measures in order to survive.
And it is the capitalists and their representatives that then take advantage of these vulnerable victims, in order to consolidate their power, profits, and privileges.
We can have no illusions in the bourgeois courts when it comes to defending the rights of any layer of workers – native or migrant. Instead, workers must trust only in their own strength, and organise to overthrow this rotten Tory government.
We must fight to bring down the borders; and unite as workers, regardless of nationality or ethnicity, against our common enemy – the capitalist class – to bring down the system that exploits and oppresses us all.