The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 2nd March 2018
DIANE Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, last Friday laid out Labour’s policies on immigration after Brexit, saying the party would end arbitrary targets and base immigration policy prioritising jobs and the economy.
“We need a values-based approach to immigration. I am confident, in the coming months, we will be setting out immigration policies that meet the test of being firmly located in Labour’s values,” she said .
But she was emphatic that she would end the scandal of indefinite detention of immigrants and asylum seekers, using detention only as a last resort and limiting it to 28 days maximum.
This was after a visit to the infamous Yarl’s Wood detention centre, which holds up to 410 asylum seekers and others awaiting possible deportation.
She went with Shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti after waiting over a year to get permission from the Home Office for the visit. They found desperate, vulnerable women going out of their minds because they have no idea when they will be released. One woman said she had lived in Britain for 30 years, had five British children and had been detained for seven months, pending removal to Nigeria, a country where she no longer has any family.
“We met another woman who had been held there for nine months. For most of them, the biggest concern was the amount of time they had been in the centre. The striking thing was that they had no release date,” Abbott said. “These women were clearly desperate. Indefinite detention, with no release date, is just wrong.”
Britain is the only country in Europe that locks people up with no limit on how long they can be held. This has been condemned by a report from the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).
Every year the Home Office locks up nearly 30,000 people, including asylum seekers, children, elderly people, pregnant women, and survivors of torture, trafficking and rape.
Indefinite detention separates families and devastates people’s mental health. Self-harm and suicide attempts are common. In 2015 scandals around Yarl’s Wood led to some improvement and the release two thirds of the detainees. Abbott said this raised a serious question over why they were detained in the first place.
Chakrabarti said she was disturbed by the poor legal advice available to detainees. Women told her that a hunger strike that began on Wednesday was ongoing, although: “Officials flatly denied that there was a hunger strike,” Chakrabarti said. “The women we met felt forgotten.”
Abbott said that Theresa May’s target, and the hostile environment measures put in place that have so far failed to achieve it, are “leading to the scandalous situation where we are turning away doctors, even though there is a severe shortage of trained personnel in the NHS.”
She gave a new commitment to ending family break-up in the immigration system, saying: “We will allow the carers or parents of admitted child refugees to come here.
“We will also end the practice of deporting the children, currently without entitlement to be here, once they turn 18, even when their parents are entitled to be here.”
Regarding Brexit, Abbott said Labour would extend the same rights to EU citizens who arrived in Britain during the transition period as to those who were in Britain before Brexit, which Theresa May has said she will oppose.
“We don’t want a two-tier system for EU nationals, and apart from anything else, it would lead to a complexity that I doubt the immigration services could actually handle,” Abbott said.
She said she is not in favour of preferential treatment for EU citizens versus non-EU citizens for a future migration system. But she said Labour would not put curbs on immigration ahead of economic considerations when negotiating a Brexit deal. “In trade negotiations, our policy favours growth, jobs and prosperity. We make no apology for putting these aims above bogus immigration targets, we mean it,” she said.