Not content with his expensive safari Christmas, Sajid Javid came home to bring in the New Year. What could have prompted such good cheer?
Britain’s Home Secretary would have us believe he cut his holiday short to make sure the migrant crisis in the English Channel can be solved. That’s right, Javid put down his copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged out of the kindness of his heart. No, really. Stop laughing.
“Our job here is to make sure this doesn’t turn into a new route for ever-increased illegal migration,” Javid said. “So I want to stop it now.”
Of course, the truth is that modern immigration restrictions guarantee illegal immigration as some people will always need a place to go. That’s true of economic migrants and refugees, as it is for holidaymakers and other travellers. If we really wanted to help the refugees, we would be making it easier for them to find sanctuary and apply for asylum.
Borders create security and insecurity in unequal measure. Yet we’re supposed to believe the best way to deal with a dozen people washing up on the shores of Dover is to try and make their journey even more perilous. So we shouldn’t be under any illusions here.
“A question has to be asked: if you are a genuine asylum seeker why have you not sought asylum in the first safe country that you arrived in?” Javid said.
“France is not a country where anyone would argue it is not safe in any way whatsoever, and if you are genuine then why not seek asylum in your first safe country?” he stressed.
Actually, the French government has a track record for illegally deporting refugees (not that the UK is much better going by the Windrush scandal), but the UK at least has formal commitments to not deport people to certain jurisdictions. Iran is one of them, given the character of the regime.
Many of the refugees fleeing to the UK right now are from Iran. It’s worth asking what they are running from. Well, US sanctions have been reinstated against Iran since Donald Trump tore up the nuclear agreement reversing years of progress.
Despite the fact that the Iran nuclear agreement was supported by a number of countries, the US has been able to renege on the deal. As a result, some of the biggest British businesses have decided to comply with the sanctions regime. The impact has been devastating for the Iranian economy, making the lives of millions of people far worse.
The people boarding dinghies to cross the English Channel are not shopping for countries. They are fleeing for their lives having lost everything else. Though Western politicians like Javid are happy to talk about a ‘humanitarian response’ when it means bombing the shit out of a country.
Even still, the British public is under the impression that the UK is facing a foreign deluge. Somehow the perceptions of immigration have rarely matched the reality. The majority of refugees from the Middle East have not tried to reach Britain – they’ve ended up in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
Turkey has taken in more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, whereas the UK has accepted a little over 10,000. Most countries have adopted a strategy of shifting asylum seekers onto the nearest neighbour. This is exactly what Javid advocates when he spuriously claims the refugees really belong in France.
Somehow the real numbers just don’t matter. There were 26,350 applications for asylum made in the UK in 2017, according to the BBC. This compares with almost 200,000 asylum applications in Germany, over 126,000 in Italy and more than 91,000 in France in the same year.
If you’re a racist, the numbers are irrelevant because the figures are always too high. There are never enough deportations as long as there are ‘foreigners’ present in these isles. The prevailing narrative is so xenophobic the refugee question can barely be raised without hysteria ensuing.
Sajid Javid is just riding the wave. He’s more than happy to give voice to British fears of immigration and sign off on punitive measures against the most vulnerable. Javid might be PM one day, and he’s got to make his bones somehow. This is no doubt why Downing Street was quick to leak the cost of his holiday to the press.
In the meantime, the May government is looking to give the ‘hostile environment’ a new spin to make state-sponsored racism okay again. Javid is the man of the hour, the son of a Pakistani bus driver, an Ayn Rand fanboy and a banker to boot. But it’s not just about the Iranians desperate enough to rush to our shores.
It’s about how we think about ourselves and what it means for newcomers to this country. We should look at the Yarl’s Wood detention camp and ask: Is this who we really are? The answer is ‘yes’.
Photograph courtesy of British High Commission, New Delhi. Published under a Creative Commons license.