ON MONDAY night, the Tory Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (the Policing Bill) passed its third reading in Parliament on its way to becoming law that will criminalise protest against Tory policies and even make being homeless a criminal offence.
The very next day the Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel published her latest plan to criminalise asylum seekers in the form of the Nationality and Borders Bill.
Clause 37 of this bill says that an offence is committed if a person ‘requires entry clearance under the immigration rules’ and yet ‘knowingly arrives in the United Kingdom without a valid entry clearance’.
Anyone arriving in the UK to claim asylum through what is called an ‘irregular route’ will face charges and imprisonment.
The many thousands of refugees fleeing the devastating effects of imperialist wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa region have no access to ‘regular routes’ and instead are forced to travel overland and by sea in flimsy boats, risking their lives and the lives of their children to seek a safe refuge.
Patel and the Tories intend there will be no safety for them in the UK.
Instead, the bill allows immigration officials to arrest people on boats when they enter Britain’s territorial waters in order to stop them from claiming asylum if they reach land. Those on board will be ‘taken to any place in the United Kingdom or elsewhere’.
This allows immigration and navy vessels to operate Patel’s ‘push-back’ operations where UK vessels engage with refugee boats and either disable them or force them out of UK waters.
Both these tactics pose the real risk of sinking these small vessels and drowning the occupants. Naturally the prospect of drowning men, women and children doesn’t deter the Tories.
Indeed, the bill makes provision for the authorities to arrest and jail anyone who helps refugees from drowning, even the crews of Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) lifeboats.
Under existing legislation it is illegal for anyone to ‘facilitate’ asylum seekers to ‘illegally’ enter the country for financial gain.
In other words, the gangs that prey on the desperate refugees were the only ones liable to criminal prosecution but under the new bill the words ‘for gain’ have been deleted meaning that anyone who rescues a drowning refugee, including RNLI volunteers, could face life imprisonment – an increase on the current 14-year maximum contained in the bill.
Last year, Patel was actively considering dumping asylum seekers off to the Ascension Islands in the South Pacific to let them rot there out of sight.
In the latest scheme Patel is reported to be in talks with Danish officials about setting up a processing centre for migrants in Africa, with Rwanda being touted as a possibility.
If potentially drowning refugees doesn’t work then putting them in camps thousands of miles away is the Tory alternative.
This week, the Police Bill and Borders Bill prove conclusively that the working class and refugees face a common enemy.
Instead of driving a wedge between workers and asylum seekers, these two bills have established a unity between them in facing a class war waged by a Tory government and the capitalist system it serves.
The enemy of the working class is not refugees fleeing imperialist wars but a capitalist system that is preparing to criminalise any worker or youth who rises up in protest against a Tory government intent on destroying the wages and jobs of millions for the profits of the bankers and bosses.
The only future for the working class is to join with the peoples of the world in the struggle to end wars and poverty through the overthrow of imperialism by socialist revolution.
In Britain, this means building the WRP to lead the fight to force the TUC to organise a general strike to bring down this Tory government and go forward to a workers’ government that will expropriate the capitalist class and welcome every worker from any country to join in building a socialist society.
This is the only way forward for workers and the people of the world.