Refugees are the losers as Interior Ministry aide shows he can be hostile to Priti too | Jean Crace
Jhe United Kingdom has a long and proud tradition of welcoming refugees, Home Secretary Tom Pursglove said as he opened the debate on consideration of House of Lords amendments to the Nationality and Immigration Bill. borders. He then singled out Kindertransport, Afghanistan and Ukraine.
It sounded wonderful, but none of it was quite true. The Kindertransport became part of our history because we weren’t as welcoming to Jewish men and women in the late 1930s.
Then there was Afghanistan, where we had screwed up for ages before the prime minister decided he was more interested in rescuing mutts than rescuing Afghan performers.
And for several weeks the UK lagged behind the rest of Europe in its response to Ukraine and it took the country’s citizens to shame the government into upping its game. Yet we write our own story and we tell each other the stories we want to hear.
But even if her rose-tinted account had been accurate, Pursglove was in the room to say enough was enough. No more Mr Nice Guy. Britain is no longer a soft touch. The time had come to be cruel in order to be kind. Or better yet, be cruel for the sake of being cruel.
So he was there to warn the House that the government was going to ignore all attempts by the Lords and the opposition to water down the bill. No ifs, no buts. He and Priti Patel were tired of listening to woke liberals. Stupidity and meanness are clearly contagious in the Home Office.
None of this made much sense. An amendment had to be rejected just for fun. Much to the confusion of Stuart C McDonald, SNP Home Affairs Spokesman. He wanted to know why the government was so keen to get rid of legislation committing the UK to fulfilling its obligations under the UN refugee convention when the minister insisted the UK always do its utmost possible to respect them.
What was wrong with keeping an amendment that committed you to doing what you said you were going to do anyway? That was why he couldn’t help but be a little suspicious that the government wasn’t being entirely honest about its intentions.
Pursglove has plowed, aided and abetted Tory MPs Lee Anderson and Jonathan Gullis, whose distrust of outsiders comes second only to their hatred of soft-hearted opposition members.
All three would be the first to bang a Ukrainian who made the fatal mistake of fleeing the war without first filling out the necessary visa forms. It would be a mistake to give refugees the right to work after six months, as this would only encourage more illegal migrants.
And their only worry about using a wave machine to push refugees back to France was that they might take too much advantage of it. It might make them feel like they’re in Alton Towers.
More importantly, it was vital that the government could continue to pursue the option of processing refugees and asylum seekers overseas. And that included children, if they showed up with their families. Preferably somewhere several thousand miles away. This would ensure that only the most determined and desperate would try to make it to the UK.
Unfortunately, Pursglove had to admit that the piece of paper on which the Home Office had calculated how much it was all going to cost had gone astray. Which was probably just as well, shadow Home Office minister Stephen Kinnock observed, as the true cost would be around £1m per person.
For that money you could fly refugees around the country in first class, buy them a house, give them £100,000 to make them feel at home and still have change. But hey, you can’t put a price tag on making life miserable for people fleeing persecution.
Kinnock also made the fatal mistake of suggesting the government was considering Ascension Island as a potential treatment centre. Pursglove was outraged. Ascension Island had refused Priti Vacant’s request and the Ministry of Interior was busy looking for another country to receive our asylum seekers.
Conservative MP Tim Loughton has decided he’s had enough. He was tired of Labor being so negative about the government’s exciting new immigration plans. So what would he do?
Kinnock looked at him like he was an idiot. Read my lips. He would vote to retain the Lords’ amendments. Not ideal, but the best he could do under the circumstances. Oh, and he also wouldn’t insult other EU leaders like the Suspect had grown accustomed to. Curiously, it might be easier to solve an international problem by working with other countries.
Not all Tory MPs were won over by Pursglove’s arguments. Again, his delivery is so monotonous that it’s amazing he doesn’t fall asleep. Or maybe he does. That would explain a lot.
Damian Green remarked quite sensibly that if the government didn’t provide safe routes for refugees – these were made for those fleeing Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen – then they would inevitably end up taking dangerous routes. And a civilized country has a duty to provide safe roads. Although it was Johnson and Patel’s UK he was talking about.
David Davis focused on the relocation of refugees, stressing that it was a humanitarian disaster in Australia, with thousands of children suffering from mental health issues. Pursglove looked confused. Surely that was the whole point?
The most impassioned speech of the day came from Liberal Democrat Tim Farron, who called the bill a “traffickers charter” and said voting for it was like voting for more deaths in the English Channel.
Refugees did not come to the UK because it was so wonderful, but because life back home was so unbearable. It was the worst bill he had seen in 17 years, he said.
No matter. The government comfortably won the votes to reject the Lords’ amendments. The United Kingdom had chosen to become a meaner and more hostile country. Or just maintained a not so proud tradition.