Racist Home Offices hits new low on refugees - Lorna Slater

Even by the terrible standards of the institutionally racist Home Office, its latest proposal to send refugees to Rwanda to be “processed” is surely a disgraceful new low.

Lorna Slater (Green)
Lorna Slater (Green)

It is a result of the same political mindset and priorities that has led to chartered deportation flights and the Windrush scandal. It is the latest in a long line of abuses from a Tory government that has shown a total disregard for the rights and lives of people fleeing conflict zones and seems to be ripping up the Refugee Convention.

A lot of the opposition has focused on the inefficiency and the cost of the proposal. These complaints are valid, but they miss the point. Even if a proposal like this cost absolutely nothing at all to implement, the sheer cruelty of it could never be justified.

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It is hard to believe that the timing is a coincidence. It was announced as the Prime Minister and Chancellor were rightly under fire for the series of parties hosted in Downing Street and the lies that were told to cover it up.

Only eight days beforehand the refugees minister Richard Harrington had denied all knowledge of any proposal in an interview with LBC, saying “I'm having difficulty enough getting [refugees] from Ukraine to our country, there's no possibility of sending them to Rwanda.”

The fact that Boris Johnson and his colleagues would callously and cynically fan the flames of prejudice and use the wellbeing of refugees as part of a racist pantomime to distract from their own behaviour is appalling.

It could be about to get even worse. This week the House of Commons will vote on the House of Lords amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill, a disgraceful piece of legislation that would criminalise people seeking safety in the UK.

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You can tell a lot about a society and a government by the way that it treats vulnerable people. The UK government is one that plays divide and rule. It is one that turns communities against one another. Boris Johnson and Priti Patel didn’t invent this tactic, but they have mastered it.

I have no doubt that future generations will look at the dehumanising way that successive Prime Ministers have treated human beings with horror and disgust. But how many more people will suffer in the meantime?

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At heart this is a question of what kind of future we want to build. I don’t want us to be a country that demonises and dehumanises people. I don’t want us to be one that is devoid of empathy and detains refugees in prison-like conditions or sends them to be “processed” by a regime with an appalling human rights record.

We can be much better than that. I want us to be a fairer, greener Scotland that welcomes people from around the world, whether people come here for work, love or safety from persecution.

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I want us to be the Scotland that rallies to help its friends and neighbours, like the protesters on Kenmure Street. Not a country that sends deportation vans into our neighbourhoods to detain people in dawn raids.

This horrifying plan must be stopped. It is time to end the hostile environment and dismantle the racist and authoritarian policies that underpin it.

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Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity