Racists in government don't talk about "illegal immigrants" any more. They talk about “bogus asylum seekers". This is a useful code for squeaky clean racists like Jack Straw and Mike O'Brien. They don't need to talk about being swamped by an alien culture, the press know what to do and oblige with stories of hordes of asylum seekers in Richmond [about seven in fact] or tidal waves of Slovak Roma at Heathrow, and threats and attacks on asylum seekers start to rise again. But, of course, they haven't played the race card.
Labour have taken a battering on trying to follow the Tory asylum laws, losing in court cases over the Onibyos and the Slovak Roma as well as being forced to back off over action against refugees from Algeria and the former Zaire. On immigration they have dropped the "primary purpose rule", an expensive and pointless exercise which subjected spouses trying to come into this country to humiliating interviews and then refused them entry.
After 18 months they have produced two white papers on Asylum. One deals with the appeals system and says nothing conclusive. The other is a tinkering exercise and mostly an excuse for Straw and O'Brien to say "bogus asylum seekers" a lot on Newsnight.
There is no reason for immigration controls of any sort. They are another power that the nation state creates for itself to control people and to back up the pretence of the necessity for its own existence, These white papers, therefore, contain nothing to welcome. Below we will look at what is proposed and why.
Like every new policy this one has three words beginning with the same letter to set out its aim: In this case it's "Fairer Faster and Firmer." Fairer means some sort of "asylum seekers charter," Faster means more desperate and Firmer means more CS gas. Nobody would dispute that the current system sucks but there is nothing here to deal with the problems even within the limits of our social democracy.
The tone of the white paper appears at first to nod recognition to the anti-racist movement and to Britain as a multi-cultural society. A few mentions of the Empire Windrush and the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. No mention, however, of the reports exposing racism inherent in the Home Office itself. The attitude towards asylum seekers is one of disbelief and irritation. A huge amount of time and money has been spent on studies and reports about the asylum system. The white paper has ignored all of these. Of the case studies referred to, none includes a successful appeal against the refusal of asylum. The only "genuine" asylum seeker described is a case taken up by the UN. The others are all failed applications. The majority of refugees these days are those who have applied for asylum and been refused and win their status at appeal to an "independent" adjudicator or when the Home Office concede when faced with losing. The white paper proposes to make applications more difficult by: trying to stop people getting here in the first place with "airline liaison officers" overseas which, in an asylum context, means grassing potential asylum seekers (ie undocumented travellers) at the airport in their country of origin; bouncing people back to other countries [eg France] more often; and cutting the time limits for, and the availability of, legal representation for making the initial asylum application.
The next step is to make life shit for people while waiting for an appeal. At present a court ruling means that people are supported under the National Assistance Act by local authorities. This was not intended in the 1996 Act which sought to deny people any support at all. The good thing is that there is a commitment to taking the responsibility off Local Authorities. This may relieve the situation in places such as Dover. However they aim to dump responsibility on refugee communities (who face the same problems of everyday survival as most other people) and voluntary organisations to support asylum seekers, The proposal is for a system of vouchers to cover food, toiletries, travel to interviews and phone calls. This is go-ing to be a lot more expensive to run but will be a nice little bonus for whichever company gets to run the scheme and will obviously deter all those who come here seeking our Jobseekers' Allowance.
Unsurprisingly, there is nothing concrete about dealing with the ignorance, cynicism and culture of disbelief in the Home Office decision making.
After the Campsfield trials and the Ramsbotham inquiry there was some hope that the Secretary of State would restrain his enthusiasm for the detention of asylum seekers but it will be business as usual for the highly respected Group 4 and the born-again christians of Wackenhut.
Specific proposals will emerge towards the end of this year with a bill scheduled for this parliamentary term. There is little point in getting drawn in to the dead end of a lobbying process during the course of this legislation. The practical examples of activists in Dover and the Belgian anarchists' own "detention review" are more worthwhile.