Immigration is a tough and complex issue. When addressing it, we should not feel forced to pick between protecting the security of a country on the one hand and safeguarding the basic human rights of those seeking to enter it on the other. As a counter-terror expert, I served in Afghanistan and Iraq and have worked in Somaliland, Ethiopia and Kenya. I know first-hand that the politics of fear and cynicism routinely pushed by Boris Johnson’s government causes significant damage to our security. Large swathes of the Conservative voters are ashamed of this aspect of UK policy. Yet still new arrivals in Dover in 2022 continue to shout “we love you UK”. Here are three simple steps that could both increase security and restore human dignity on the first day of a Labour administration.
Firstly, safe routes into the country will stop those seeking refuge needing to risk their lives in dinghies or lorries. I’ll never forget meeting the father who told me about his ten-year-old daughter being raped by the Taliban. I had met him a few times, and he was always so proud of his family and his home. But in that encounter he was frantic as he begged me to take him back to England. Nothing would stop that man seeking refuge in the UK – and if you were in his shoes, nothing would stop you.
We need to end the Conservative Hunger Games attitude with a clear solution. Making it deadly to try to reach our country is beneath us all. Arrival centres in northern France where British authorities take responsibility for the asylum process are the solution. We can welcome new arrivals safely, then process them in the UK, ending unnecessary Channel deaths and keeping record of who is actually crossing the border, which would be a positive for security.
Secondly, once here, arrivals in the asylum process are stuck on £5.66 a day. If you had to live on this money, and someone offered you a day’s work shifting ‘stuff’ around, of course you’d take it. But this work is often unsafe, underpaid and offers them no protection. It is illegal work. All it takes is allowing those in the country to take up honest work so they can earn a living and be treated with the dignity that we all deserve.
A temporary tax code could see that they contribute income fairly to our system. This would also see the UK catch up with many of our European neighbours. Remember Barack Obama and those before him celebrating the “land of opportunity”? We should be celebrating our success in providing opportunity and safety to those in need. Instead, this government is pushing new arrivals into the arms of criminals and tax-dodgers here.
Thirdly, we can’t let the human traffickers get away unchallenged. We have to smash the gangs who profit from people smuggling. A significant step that we know the Tories won’t take is to fund our police, border forces and National Crime Agency sufficiently. This will enable them to use intelligence teams to get ahead of the game and break the criminal groups exploiting these desperate people. This step will of course require police cooperation and diplomacy with our neighbours and allies, instead of failed Twitter diplomacy by the man the French President refers to as “un clown”. Only Labour can be trusted to make the investments in security and diplomacy to defeat these gangs.
All the evidence shows that an immigration system based on empathy is the right way forward. Not only is it the dignified way to treat humans, but it is also far better for our security. Safe travel, freedom to work and defeating the criminal gangs will create a system that works for all of us. Communities like Dover at the forefront of the broken immigration system deserve better than short-sighted Conservative MPs, who follow the Prime Minister and Home Secretary in choosing fear and gimmicks over the humane and safe borders that only Labour will deliver.