Thank you so much for being here today
We’re here with a very clear message for Boris Johnson and Priti Patel
This vile and vicious policy is inhumane, unworkable, probably illegal and certainly immoral
We’re here to say that we will fight it every step of the way
We’re here to say – not in our name
It is beyond belief that ministers are dressing up this cowardly outsourcing of our asylum obligations as if it were some kind of “development partnership” with Rwanda
Rwanda, a country which our own Government said last year was guilty of human rights abuses and torture
Rwanda, one of the poorest countries in the world, with almost double the population density of the UK, and yet which, per capita, is already hosting 5 times as many refugees as the UK.
Ministers claim that this policy is about ‘breaking the business model of the people traffickers”
Yet we know, as they must surely know, that the only thing that would break that business model would be to offer safe and legal routes to asylum in this country.
People only risk their lives in flimsy boats in the Channel because they’ve literally got nothing left to lose.
The countries they’re mostly fleeing from – Iraq, Iran, Eritrea – are countries where their lives are already at risk.
In the powerful words of the Somali-British poet Warsan Shire:
“No-one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark
No-one puts their child in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
The awful truth about this policy is that it will push up the price for human traffickers, and see *more* people smuggling, as desperate people try to leave Rwanda.
We know it won’t work
The Home Office knows it won’t work – and indeed we learn today that civil servants said as much before Priti Patel used a Ministerial Direction to over-rule them.
Because ministers don’t really even care about whether it works or not
This cruel and callous policy is simply a cynical calculation designed to stoke woke wars, and bolster the Conservative Party.
This grubby trade in human lives is about trying to save Boris Johnson’s skin from another day of questions about whether he should resign - at the expense of a multiplication of human misery and lives lost
The similar Australian offshore system has been condemned by UN Commission for Human Rights – it’s led to widespread suicide, self harm, sexual violence and neglect
It’s also cost billions of Australian dollars.
The UK’s offshore processing scheme is estimate to cost £1.4bn year
How is it that we can find the money for this, but we apparently can’t afford to ensure millions of people aren’t pushed into poverty, we can’t afford to protect people from rising fuel bills, we can’t afford to uprate benefits in line with inflation?
These are all deliberate political choices which reflect the political priorities of this vicious Government.
And it doesn’t stop here.
The Nationality and Borders Bill is due back in the House of Commons next week, after being defeated for a second time by the Lords. If passed, it will represent the largest roll back of refugee rights this country has ever seen – including criminalising all those coming across the Channel, with sentences of up to 4 years.
This at a time when this Government has already betrayed so many people in Afghanistan who worked with this country, who risked their lives for this country, who were promised protection, and who’ve now simply been left to face the consequences.
Friends, I’m so proud that Brighton and Hove is a city of sanctuary
I’m so proud of all the wonderful organisations and individuals who
do so much to support refugees and asylum seekers
We don’t deserve political leaders who are so devoid of imagination, of compassion
We know nothing can be worth the multiplication of misery which this policy would produce
But we can overturn it – Israel had a similar agreement with Rwanda and activism and protest managed to get it stopped.
We can do the same
So we’re here to say Britain deserves better than this
We’re here to say Refugees are Welcome
And we’re here to say we won’t rest until this vile and vicious policy is reversed