Facing a permacrisis back home, Tory ministers are ratcheting up their racist rhetoric against migrants and refugees, with those fleeing war and repression suffering the consequences. We say: Bring down the borders! Bring down capitalism!
Horrific conditions at a migrant processing facility in Kent have revealed the reality of the Tories’ ‘hostile environment’ policy.
Whilst some Tory figures may cry crocodile tears about the migrant crisis, the truth is that the dire situation facing refugees and asylum-seekers is a scandal entirely of the government’s making.
Recent events have shone a spotlight on conditions at the Manston detention centre in Kent.
This facility is designed to process up to 1,600 migrants per day. Yet asylum-seekers – who have fled war and torture – have been subjected to massive overcrowding, with up to 4,000 people being crammed in the centre.
Since migrants are supposed to be processed within 24 hours of their arrival, the site contains no beds, along with no access to fresh air or exercise.
Many refugees claim to have spent weeks in the facility; forced to sleep on floors and in cold marquees. Consequently, the centre is now a breeding ground for disease and abuse.
So extreme are the conditions that the government has itself acknowledged that the site is not operating legally.
As a result, the Home Office is increasingly in the spotlight. And the finger of blame has roundly been pointed at home secretary Suella Braverman – a favourite of the Tory rank and file, notorious for her migrant bashing.
So fractured is the Tory Party, that even Conservative MPs have been quick to criticise Braverman for the crisis.
Backbencher Sir Roger Gale, who represents the North Thanet constituency where the Manston centre is based, has lambasted Braverman for her “car crash” decision to allegedly block the transfer of migrants to hotels, “deliberately” turning the site into a “refugee camp”.
It seems likely that Braverman, who previously stated that she “dreams” of deporting migrants to Rwanda, has indeed exacerbated the crisis.
But the problem does not lie simply with one ‘bad apple’. The entire Tory Party – and the rotten system they represent – are the real culprits for the appalling plight faced by migrants.
This year alone, 40,000 people have crossed the English Channel in small boats – the highest figure since records began. Many have not survived, as seen with the tragic drowning of 27 migrants last November.
Those making the perilous journey to Britain’s shores risk exploitation, torture, enslavement, and deportation to unsafe countries. At the same time, those held in detention centres such as Yarl’s Wood and Hassockfield face psychological and sexual torture.
Even if those fleeing oppression and repression manage to make it past these brutal barriers at the UK’s borders, the Windrush scandal and repeated Home Office raids have shown how vulnerable they remain once inside the country.
At the same time, the favourable treatment shown by the government towards Ukrainian refugees reveals the stark hypocrisy of the system, revealing how the ruling class will treat – or mistreat – migrants according to their own narrow political interests.
The Tories’ notorious ‘hostile environment’ policy has relied on dog-whistle racism and mistreatment of migrants from the very beginning – promising to ‘take back control of Britain’s borders’ amidst a ‘foreign invasion’.
Racism and xenophobia has consistently been employed by ruling classes throughout the ages to divide and distract the working class: from prohibitive signs saying “no Irish, no blacks, no dogs”; to more recent reactionary demands for “controls on immigration” and “British jobs for British workers”.
Today, with capitalism and its political representatives in crisis, it is migrants and asylum-seekers who are scapegoated for the shortage of jobs and housing, or for crumbling public services and declining wages.
The result is that the hostile environment towards migrants gets ever more hostile; ratcheted up by the Tory government in a classic case of divide and rule.
Most ordinary people can see that the cost-of-living crisis has nothing to do with migrants. Instead, workers are increasingly getting organised and turning towards industrial struggle against the real enemy: the bosses and their Tory representatives.
Yet decades of racist rhetoric and xenophobic hysteria from the Tories and their chums in the gutter press has its consequences, as seen by the growing incidence of far-right violence towards migrants.
Recently, on 30 October, for example, a man carried out a firebomb attack on a Dover immigration centre, before killing himself.
Despite the perpetrator having a long history of far-right online activity, including tweeting that he would “obliterate Muslim children” just an hour before his attack, police took two days before treating the incident as an ‘act of terror’.
In light of these deplorable events, Braverman’s inflammatory remarks about ‘invading’ migrants have drawn criticism from senior Tories, who have urged her to ‘soften her language’.
Ironically, in 2020, Braverman herself had urged then home secretary Priti Patel to consider ‘toning down her language’ on immigration.
But now that the baton has passed from Patel to Braverman, she is dutifully carrying out the Tories’ tried-and-tested policy: whipping up hatred against migrants and refugees in an effort to deflect attention away from the real crises facing the working class.
Those in the Tory Party and the establishment who might admonish Braverman do not fundamentally disagree with the reactionary content of what she says – only with the incendiary and abrasive form that her comments take.
The leaders of both major parties are no better on this issue.
On one side we have the ‘patriotic’ Keir Starmer, who criticises his Tory counterpart for having “lost control of our borders”, whilst bedecking the Labour conference stage in Union Jacks.
On the other side is Rishi Sunak, the man who reappointed Braverman as home secretary, and who has stood by her side throughout the recent scandals; the man who cynically leans on identity politics to present himself as a genuine representative of those from ethnic minority backgrounds – all while implementing cuts that will cause pain for working-class communities of every colour and creed.
The task of defending migrants and refugees against repression and exploitation must fall to the labour movement, using methods of class struggle.
The inspiring examples of solidarity seen recently from workers and youth in Glasgow, Peckham, and Hackney – where local residents have mobilised to repel deportation attempts – show the way forward.
Similarly, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch is 100% correct in his suggested solution to the bosses’ attempts to replace ferry workers at P&O with underpaid, super-exploited foreign agency workers: for the unions to organise all workers to improve wages and conditions across the board.
In the words of Marx, the working class “has no country”. Our real enemies are the bosses and billionaires of the world, who use division and oppression to keep us all in chains.
Above all, it is the capitalist system, with its imperialist wars, poverty, and misery, that forces millions to leave their families and homes behind in search of a better life.
And it is capitalism – this dog-eat-dog profit system – which is responsible for unemployment, poor housing, and underfunded services.
Capitalism, as Lenin said, is “horror without end”. In place of this barbarism, the left and the labour movement must fight for open borders and working-class internationalism, as part of the socialist transformation of society.
- No to immigration detention centres! No to deportations!
- For open borders! Refugees welcome! Fight for the rights of all workers, regardless of nationality!
- Kick out the Tories! Kick out the imperialists and warmongers! Kick out capitalism!