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UK Interior Minister Priti Patel. Wikipedia/Illegal immigrants. Stock photo from Pixabay

The British government’s deportation plans draw ire

The British government's plans to speed up the deportation of asylum seekers to safe EU countries have attracted criticism. There is not the slightest chance that planned bilateral agreements to take back immigrants will work, said a former minister. The Refugee Convention however allows for this.

Published: March 30, 2021, 10:21 am

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    Former Interior Minister David Blunkett (Labor), said there was not a “cat’s chance in hell” that EU countries would agree to take back such deportees, reported the newspaper The Independent. Blunkett, who had served under Tony Blair, responded to new measures announced by the current Interior Minister Priti Patel (Conservative) according to which migrants who entered illegally would be denied the automatic right to asylum. Instead, their deportation to safe countries through which they came to the UK should be checked.

    Patel stressed to the BBC that all of her proposals were in line with the Refugee Convention and international law as well as the European Convention on Human Rights. In the face of illegal immigration, inaction was not an option, she said.

    However, this project was not feasible, according to Blunkett and other pro-immigration officials, because bilateral agreements with the other EU states were “not feasible”. Blunkett, who was Interior Minister between 2001 and 2004, stated: “It was really difficult to send people back when we were still part of the EU.” He accused Patel of submitting the plans for party political motives.

    The former head of immigration, Dave Wood, also joined in the criticism against Patel. He shared the assessment that separate regulations with the European Union for taking back migrants were “mad” and “not realistic”. Amnesty UK’s programme director for refugee and migrant rights, echoed Wood claiming such a move would be “inefficient” and expensive. Ditto for Catherine Woollard, director of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), a network of NGOs, who declared that securing bilateral agreements with EU states was “wishful thinking”.

    But before Brexit, the Dublin Regulation provided an incentive to deport asylum seekers who had travelled through safe EU nations before reaching Britain. Thus the UK returned 891 individuals between 2017 and 2020. The Home Office pointed out that Britain and the EU had agreed to engage in bilateral discussions with individual countries to discuss “suitable practical arrangements” on asylum. Also, the new plans include stripping those who cannot immediately be deported of all benefits – placing them in the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) category. In addition, their family reunion rights will be limited.

    The Independent quoted an anonymous former Home Office official who accused Patel of just trying to show toughness. In his view, there was “little incentive for most member states to do a bilateral deal, since the UK tends to be the end of the journey for asylum seekers, and there aren’t really any sanctions the UK can credibly threaten if member states don’t want to agree to a deal”.

    The UK Minister for Immigration Compliance and Justice, Chris Philp, welcomed the new plan which would “overhaul our asylum system and speed up the removal of failed asylum seekers and dangerous foreign criminals”.

    Last year, 8 500 migrants came to the UK by boat across the English Channel, four times more than the year before.

    The issue is a divisive one, since polls show that more and more minority British voters believe institutions are racist, whether government, police, media or the royal family, according to a BMG Research poll for The Independent. The number of respondents has increased significantly among blacks, Asians and ethnic minorities, known as BAME voters in the UK.

    The recent Commission on Racial Inequalities report found that nearly a third (31 percent) of people interviewed from ethnic minorities believed that the Conservative Party was racist. The study also showed that more than three-quarters of black people in the UK do not believe their human rights were protected and it highlighted the death rate for black women in childbirth which was five times higher than for whites. Some 60 percent of blacks believed that the NHS did not protect their health in the same way as it did for whites.

    Racial strife has increasingly been making headlines in the UK. Recently, Oxford University said it would consider dropping sheet music, deemed “too colonial”, after staff raised concerns about “complicity with white supremacy” in music programs. University staff argued that the current program focused on “white European music from the days of slavery,” reported The Telegraph.

    In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, teachers are set to reform their music lessons to move away from the classical repertoire, which includes Beethoven, Mozart and the like. They maintain that the teaching of musical notation “has not been stripped of its connection to its colonial past” and would be “a slap in the face” for some students.

    And they added that musical skills should no longer be compulsory, because the current repertoire focused on “white European music” causing “great distress to students of colour”. It is believed that music writing will also be reformed to be more inclusive .

    But these proposals angered some members of the faculty, who argued that it was unfair to accuse those who teach pre-1900 music of only being interested in “whites”.

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