There is mass public support for helping Afghan refugees. The left and labour movement should try to mobilise and build on it, to win stronger measures to help those fleeing Afghanistan — and to challenge the whole anti-migrant framework which the Johnson government is preparing to strengthen.
Supporters of anti-Brexit campaign Another Europe is Possible organised local actions in support of Afghan refugees on 4 September. We should be on the look out for further opportunities to demonstrate. If refugee rights organisations call bigger protests, socialist, trade union and Labour activists should try to mobilise a strong labour movement presence.
The numbers the UK government is proposing to resettle from Afghanistan are low: 5,000 immediately and 15,000 in an undefined “long term”. As the Refugee Action charity comments “the scheme does not go far enough. In fact, it barely touches the sides”.
Uganda, whose GDP is 52 times lower than the UK’s, has announced it is offering immediate welcome to 2,000 from Afghanistan. Or to give some historical context, when Indians fled Uganda in 1972, the UK resettled 27,000 in a few months.
EU governments are citing the UK’s stingy response to Afghan refugees as a precedent for them not to open their doors much either.
In Solidarity 604 we spelt out some measures to actually welcome Afghan and other refugees. As we commented, “official resettlement schemes are not enough”.
Refugee Action asks, “what of the vast majority of Afghans who will not be lucky enough to be resettled? How will we treat the 20,001st Afghan refugee? Any Afghan who arrives in the UK today to claim asylum will be faced with a system riddled with injustice that all too often fails those it is meant to protect...”
“Worse still, this Government is seeking to double down on this injustice with their anti-refugee Bill currently going through Parliament.
“If passed, the Bill would represent the biggest attack on the refugee protection system that we have ever seen and will close the door to desperate people who arrive in the UK to seek safety, including those from Afghanistan. Under the Bill, an Afghan arriving in the UK via means other than official routes would likely be detained for who knows how long and deported to who knows where.”
The labour movement must do much more to oppose this anti-refugee Bill — the Tories’ Nationality and Borders Bill.
We need to change the whole terms of the “debate” on migrants’ and refugee rights. As Zrinka Bralo writes for Migrants Organise:
“It seems strange now that, just [over] two decades ago, refused asylum seekers like me were able to work, and even stranger that the government spared no costs to ensure Bosnian refugees were looked after, had interpreters and caseworkers, and the best NHS care for the wounded and the traumatised...”
The left must fight, including in the Labour Party, to stop the Borders Bill and for a clear policy of reversing decades of attacks on migrants’ rights.