As the Windrush crisis reignites with news 63 people may have been wrongly deported, a damning new study exposes decades of hypocrisy over Britain’s image as a safehaven.
New research now maps Britain’s century-long retreat from the heroic ideal of offering humanitarian hospitality to open hostility towards refugees.
To examine Britain’s track record as a humanitarian refuge, researchers probed changing immigration policies from 1905-2016.
“Theresa May’s ‘climate of hostility’, is not new but has emerged through harsh, brutal xenophobic policies by successive governments,” said Brunel University London’s Dr Anita Howarth.
“Those traumatized and persecuted in their countries of origin, find themselves dehumanized and persecuted in new ways in Britain,” she added. “Rather than a concerted politics of humanitarianism and hospitality, this is a politics of denigrating the human - both in the lack of hospitality and dignity”.
Starting with the 1905 Aliens Act, the study unmasks a string of harsh policies from the open borders policy up until the 2016 Dubs Amendment. It’s a path littered with political sound-bites such as ‘soft touch Britain’ and ‘bogus asylum seeker’ from the Blair era, round to Theresa May’s notorious openly ‘hostile environment’ and ‘deport first, appeal later’.
The Cameron and May governments from 2010 mark a time of open hostility to refugees and asylum seekers, the report finds. Later, the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts, expanded border control across everyday life in Britain, with banks, the DVLA, hospitals and landlords now doing basic immigration checks. “The intention was to restrict access to work, shelter, healthcare and education,” the study says.
By pouring billions into UN refugee camps near conflict zones, Britain clings to its charitable image while it uses harsh policies to turn back asylum seekers nearer its borders, Dr Howarth said. “Aid has enabled Britain to outsource humanitarian refuge while building one of the largest detention estates in Europe and denying financial support in a ‘starve them out’ approach.”
Image: David Mirzoeff/Global Justice Now
Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
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