David Blunkett's white paper on asylum and immigration, 'Secure Borders, Safe Haven', published last month, will lead to further persecution of asylum seekers.
Under the proposals, asylum seekers are to be systematically segregated--they will either be forced to stay in accommodation centres or locked up in detention camps. New arrivals will be sent immediately to 'induction centres', modelled on the controversial Oakington centre near Cambridge, where their claims will be processed. Here already frightened, desperate people will be confronted with an array of immigration officials. They will be obliged to sign a document saying they understand the asylum seeker system. They will then be either dispersed to run-down estates or to 'accommodation centres'. The policy of not allowing asylum seekers to work while their claims are being processed is to continue, and they will only be provided with the equivalent of 70 percent of income support.
Blunkett also proposes to quadruple to 30,000 the number of people the government deports each year. Among those under threat of being deported will be people who have established themselves in this country over several years, some of whom have children born here.
As well as imprisoning innocent people, Blunkett is also proposing to cherry-pick the cream of potential migrants. Under pressure from big business a system based on the accumulation of points is to be introduced, allowing potential migrants the opportunity to work here, initially for one year and then, providing they get further work, to stay longer. Some overseas students will also be allowed to remain working in this country after they have finished their studies. Despite these minor concessions however, if these proposals are introduced Britain will have some of the toughest immigration legislation in Europe.
Blunkett's proposals on immigration and asylum can be stopped. The fact that the government has been forced to scrap the hated voucher scheme for asylum seekers is a tribute to the many campaigners and trade unionists who took up the issue. Also a growing number of people have been angered by the government's barbaric measures and have already become active in a number of campaigns across the country. Some are focused on stopping deportations, and some living near detention centres have been protesting for their closure because of the appalling treatment of those being held. This includes the campaign at Yarls Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire which recently burnt down.
At the same time, trade unionists have, in a number of important trade unions, passed resolutions condemning government policy and calling for resources to be directed at backing protests. Now several campaigns have come together to call a conference in Manchester on 23 March to build the unity and co-ordination needed for a major campaign against government policy.
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