The war on refugees and asylum seekers intensified this week with the revised agreement between the UK and France, intended to prevent thousands of desperate people from crossing the English Channel.
On Monday, after months of negotiations, British Home Secretary Suella Braverman met French Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin to approve an increase in payments from 55 to 63 million pounds a year to prevent refugees to enter Britain. The deal was finalized after final talks between British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and his French counterpart Catherine Colonna.
Since London started paying Paris in 2018 to prevent migrants from reaching British shores, the total costs for the UK have reached 200 million euros.
The deal funds a 40 percent increase in the number of police patrolling French beaches (from 200 to 300) and increased use of high-tech equipment like drones and night vision cameras. Britain’s Home Office said it would fund new investment “in state-of-the-art surveillance technology, drones, detection dog teams, video surveillance and helicopters to help detect and prevent crossings.” [de la Manche]”.
His statement boasted that: “The arrangement means that, for the first time, specialist British officers will also be brought in [dans les salles de contrôle françaises] with their French counterparts, which will increase information sharing, improve understanding of the threat and ensure that British expertise is at the heart of efforts to disrupt crossing points and crack down on smugglers. This more integrated approach will also include enhanced operational cooperation, including joint UK-France analysis teams supporting coordination and information exchange by French command HQ. »
Britain would support “reception and removal centers in France for migrants whose journeys to the UK are prevented, to further deter attempted crossings”.
The new funding and measures to trample on the democratic rights of asylum seekers are in place despite the existing repressive machinery, which already prevents, as the UK Home Secretary has boasted, “over 30,000 illegal crossing attempts since the beginning of the year – more than 50% more than at the same stage last year”.
The crackdown in preparation aims to entirely halt the remaining tens of thousands making the perilous crossings. The number of people who have reached British shores is only 40,000 so far this year, compared to the millions of refugees seeking to flee their countries destroyed by imperialist wars, direct or by proxy.
Before even reaching the French coast to attempt the crossing, the refugees had to undertake an arduous journey, crossing numerous borders. Many of those arriving in the UK come from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. But the NATO proxy war in Ukraine has created millions more refugees.
As with the growing number of refugee deaths in Mediterranean/Aegean Sea, many do not survive the attempt to make it to Britain. November 24 will mark the first anniversary of the horrifying deaths of 27 refugees whose dinghies capsized in the English Channel. Only two of them survived and were rescued, another is still missing, presumed dead.
Despite a crisis of the British bourgeoisie that has necessitated the unprecedented number of five prime ministers since 2016 (three in 2022 alone) and six home ministers, agitation to stoke anti-immigrant sentiment is a constant. increasingly virulent.
The arrival of a few thousand migrants each year in Britain is often referred to as an “invasion”. It demands tougher repression, strengthens the xenophobic media, and creates an environment where fascists stage attacks on asylum seekers. Last month a fascist attacked the Western Jet Foil migrant processing center in Dover, throwing three firebombs before committing suicide.
The signing of the latest agreement was preceded by a brutal intervention by the French police, illustrating the treatment asylum seekers can expect. On Saturday morning, two days before his signing, riot police (CRS) attacked refugees with CS spray [lacrymogène] on a beach in Gravelines. This, after the police had destroyed and deflated several inflatable boats prepared for the crossing.
When the deal was signed, there were immediate complaints from British and French ruling circles and right-wing media that it was still too lax and would not prevent refugees from crossing into the UK.
Darmanin told the newspaper Voice of the North that British labor laws needed to be even more punitive. “The British must change to avoid remaining a land of attraction. They need to change their labor market rules first since you can work undocumented in the UK […] They need a normal relationship with the European Union, a treaty, to determine the rules for the entry of foreigners “.
Last year, Darmanin, a sympathizer of the far-right movement French action, sponsored an “anti-separatist” law imposing draconian restrictions on Muslim organizations in France. This month he announced plans for a major new law next year restricting the right to asylum. While allowing immigrants to stay in France if they work in “stressed industries” where there is not enough labour, it would above all allow the rapid expulsion of asylum seekers and drastically limit their right to appeal against deportation orders.
the FinancialTimes noted the concerns of ‘trade unions, politicians and UK migration experts’ as ‘there is no provision in the agreement allowing for the removal by the UK of migrants arriving in Britain, or for the treatment of those who go to the French coasts in the hope of making a crossing”.
Conservative MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke denounced the deal, saying: ‘What is needed is a radical change in approach with joint border patrols and a joint security zone across the Sleeve. Only when migrants and smugglers know they cannot successfully cross the Channel in dinghies will this crisis end. »
Union opposition to the deal was also right-wing. Kevin Mills, a Public and Commercial Services Union representative for Border Control staff in Kent, complained: “This deal is not enough and the lack of detail is telling. If you arrest thousands today and let most of them go, how many will just try again tomorrow? »
The Labor Party agrees with the closing of the British borders to “illegal immigration”. Its leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said the deal was a “step in the right direction”. Shadow Immigration Minister Stephen Kinnock, son of ex-Labour leader Neil Kinnock, has called for the introduction of ID cards in the UK to ‘reassure the public that we control our borders’ .
The British government remains determined to send refugees crossing the English Channel to Rwanda, 6,500 km away. The first attempt was made in June but was interrupted following legal appeals launched on behalf of the asylum seekers on board the planes. The agreement signed with France includes a reference to “our world-leading partnership with Rwanda which will see migrants making these unnecessary journeys relocated to this country”.
According to the rabid right-wing newspaper Daily Expressthe British government is seeking to conclude similar partnerships, in particular with Paraguay, more than ten thousand kilometers away, in South America.
The brutal treatment of asylum seekers, who are held in appalling conditions while waiting for their file to be examined, will get worse. In the Sunday Telegraph, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick presented a “ten-point migration plan to end ‘Hotel Britain'”. He denounced the “unacceptable” cost of lodging asylum seekers in hotels at up to 5.6 million pounds a day. This encouraged economic migrants ‘seeking asylum’ who saw Britain as a ‘destination of choice’. Jenrick said: “The ‘Hotel Grande Bretagne’ needs to be discontinued and replaced with simple, functional accommodation that doesn’t act as an extra draft. »
This newspaper writes: “It is suggested that ministers are looking for larger and less luxurious sites, including disused student accommodation, outdated or little-used holiday parks and, possibly, cheap cruise ships, such as those used by the Scottish government for Ukrainian refugees.”
The working class in Britain, France and across Europe must oppose this witch-hunting assault on millions of desperate people. History shows that the attack on the democratic rights of immigrants is always the precursor of an offensive against all workers. This is why the passage of the authoritarian Nationality and Borders Act took place alongside the equally draconian Police, Crime, Punishment and Courts Act and the Public Order Bill. , about to enter into force.
(Article published in English on November 15, 2022)
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UK and France sign tough new anti-immigration deal
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