The fiasco playing out in Westminster, as the Tories fight over how to tackle the consequences of their own failed immigration policies, demonstrates that they aren’t fit to run the country. And it has now emerged their plans to deal with this issue will have a direct impact on people in Thanet.
The government is quietly planning to expand the site at Manston to hold more people for longer and it appears from reports, not denied by the government, that it will be used to house people awaiting deportation to Rwanda.
There is no doubt our immigration system is broken. Whether you are outraged by hotel bookings being cancelled because of the government’s decision to house people there, or appalled by the idea of families being squeezed into unsuitable accommodation for months at a time and worried about the risks of trafficking of unaccompanied children, we can all agree something has to change. After 13 years in charge the Tories are not the ones to do it.
What happens at the Manston site itself illustrates the failures. Last year a man died of diphtheria. A pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage there after being separated from her husband and made to care for her five children alone. People were meant to stay less than 24 hours and yet were there for days, sleeping on the floor because gym mats were considered a fire risk. Failure to process people leaves families in distress and the country footing a huge bill. That’s why Labour has pledged to speed up the process of applications, saving millions of taxpayers’ money currently spent on hotels.
Let’s remember who profits from this awful trade of small boat crossings: criminal gangs charging people who have no other way to enter the UK, including Afghan people who helped us in the war there and people fleeing conflict in Syria.
Labour would crack down on those criminal gangs by establishing a special unit in the national crime agency to target them specifically. And the least we can do – but this government is failing at – is work with our neighbours like France to manage the crisis. It will also be easier to sort out the difference between those who need to be here and those that don’t, if we have safe routes for those fleeing conflict. Albanian men can apply for a visa from home but a proper functioning system would then decide if we need them here. Most, if not all of them, would be refused.
Britain has a proud history of being a global force for good, including establishing important international institutions after the Second World War. Helping to stop the causes that drive people to the desperation of small boats is part of that role. A Labour government would ensure the UK does all it can to stop wars, conflicts and climate change that drive so much of this migrant traffic.
What we experience here in Thanet is a failure by the government to address the challenges of our changing world, with our community living with the consequences. The government’s costly and unworkable plan to deport people to Rwanda could end up with more people at Manston as they are housed there before being flown out. The government shifts the problem, with costs stacking up, rather than tackle it.
We are better than this as a country and as a community. Our strengths include the ability to provide security and certainty for people born here and drawn here. People in Thanet are fed up with the failures of this government when it comes to immigration and their failures to protect either our borders or our values. We deserve better.